Colon Cancer Surgical Risks

Learn about the risks associated with the various types of colon cancer surgeries from surgical oncologist Mark Gimbel. Pain, bleeding, and infection are amongst the risks covered in this video.

Dr. Mark Gimbel:  The risks for colon surgery are pretty standard and I usually tell all my patients the same risks.  Anytime you cut the skin, there is going to be a risk of pain, bleeding, and infection.  If I can do the surgery laparoscopically, I usually infuse or give local anesthesia or numbing medicine to the areas of incisions and then there is some pain medicine afterwards.  It’s usually not too bad from that.  Open surgery is going to be a little bit different.  The pain requirements are going to be a little bit different.  Anytime, you cut the skin, there is going to be a risk of bleeding.  I always tell patients that there may be a little bit if oozing on their dressings afterwards within the abnormal cavity when operating on the colon.  There are some large blood vessels that go to the colon, so there is always a risk of having some blood loss, but rarely there is a blood transfusion ever needed.  Then the risks of infection because the colon is not a clean organ as you cut across, there is always a risk of getting an infection in the abdominal cavity, but we irrigate afterwards and try to clean out the abdomen quite well to make sure we don’t get an infection at least decease the risk of infection.  The main risk for doing colon surgery though is anytime you cut a tube, but if you think if the colon as, now a hose, if it is a hose if I cut a piece of that hose out and I want to work again, I got to put those pieces back together.  When I put it back together, it is called an anastomosis and we always worry that that area that we sew or staple there is a couple of different ways to put it back together can have a leak or can break apart.  If that happens, there can be a surgical emergency depending on when it happens and the frequency of drainage from that area but typically will be on top of it quite quickly and then take it back to the operating room to fix it.  The risk of that is still pretty small less than 5%.  If a leak does happen, it’s going to be in a small area and we can usually manage it quite easily.

For an interactive tool to learn more about your colon cancer and your personalized treatment options go to MyColonCancerCoach.org.

Dr. Mark Gimbel, MD is a surgical onolcogist at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center. He graduated from the University of Maryland, interned at the University of Florida – Jacksonville, and completed residencies at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

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