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Looking Good: Colon Cancer Keyhole Surgery

With Laparoscopy, Recovery Is Easier and Cancer Risk No Worse

Laparoscopic Procedure Good to Go continued...

Among their other findings:

  • The laparoscopic group spent significantly longer time in the operating room -- about one hour longer.
  • The laparoscopic group recovered faster, and had a shorter hospital stay.
  • The laparoscopic group also required less anesthesia and painkillers.
  • The traditional, open-surgery group had more cancerous lesions identified in other organs after their procedure.


  • Both groups of surgeons were able to get similar amounts of tissue and lymph node samples to test for metastases.
  • Both groups had similar differences in rates of surgical complications or need for second surgeries.

Overall, laparoscopically assisted colon cancer surgery proved "safe for patients with colon cancer and must be applied cautiously and selectively," Nelson writes.

The benefits are moderate -- in terms of decreased duration of hospital stay and anesthesia, she says. That must be weighed against the increased length of surgery. Also, in 21% of the laparoscopic procedures, surgeons ended up doing the traditional procedure anyway.

"Patients prefer to undergo minimally invasive procedures even if the benefits are limited, possibly because aesthetic results are considered to be better," she writes. Because the procedure does not increase the patient's cancer risk -- and provides short-term benefits -- it is worthy of further study of its quality of life, cost, and cost-effectiveness as a treatment for colon cancer, she concludes.

SOURCE: Nelson, H. New England Journal of Medicine, May 13, 2004; vol 350: pp 2050-2059.

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