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This Surgery for Colon Cancer May Benefit Seniors

Patients who had the less-invasive procedure were less likely to need nursing home care, study finds

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Wishner agreed. "The improvement in mobility and reduction in post-operative pain allows [patients] to leave the hospital sooner and without assistance, making them less likely to require discharge to a nursing home," he said. "In addition, early ambulation and the shorter hospital stay reduces the risk of post-operative complications such as pneumonia and venous thrombosis [blood clots], which would increase the need for longer-term care in a nursing home."

Another expert believes that laparoscopic colon surgery is still underused.

The procedure "is not new," said Dr. Julio Teixeira, a general surgeon specializing in minimally invasive surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "In fact, it was first done 20 years ago. However, the techniques had difficulty gaining acceptance among surgeons because of the concern over the safe and proper performance of cancer surgery and the challenging skill sets required."

Teixeira added that "ample evidence has now accumulated that minimally invasive surgery for colon cancer can be both safe and effective in treating the cancer. However, even most recent surveys show that only 15 to 20 percent of the nation's surgeons use laparoscopic techniques for colorectal surgery."

That's unfortunate, he said, since "the patients that stand to gain the most from minimally invasive surgery are often the weaker physiological reserve such as the elderly, the obese and those with significant problems such as pulmonary [lung] and cardiovascular disease."

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