Health Team

Laparoscopic Colon Surgery Means Faster Recovery for Some Cancer Patients

Posted April 2, 2007 4:58 p.m. EDT
Updated April 2, 2007 7:14 p.m. EDT

If colorectal cancer is found through screening, surgery is quickly scheduled to remove the tumor. The standard open surgery could take a full week of hospitalization, but a less invasive procedure with quicker recovery is a newer option for many patients.

Iris Senzig, 58, said that she put off colorectal cancer screening longer than she should have, because she didn't feel any symptoms of a problem. Colorectal cancer typically doesn't present symptoms until it's in an advanced stge. When Iris had the recommended colonoscopy, they found a carcinoid tumor.

"I have enough medical background to know that the first part of that word is related to cancer," said Senzig.

When benign or pre-cancerous polyps are found, they are easily removed during the colonoscopy and later tested for cancer. However, Ir is Senzig's cancer required surgery to remove a section of her large intestine and part of her small intestine, where the two meet.

Her surgeon, Dr. George Paschal, told her that rather than undergo open surgery with a large incision, she qualified for a less invasive approach. Laparoscopic colon surgery requires four small incisions; one for the camera, two for the operating surgeon and one to remove the tumor.

"It leads to less pain, less damage to the abdominal wall, fewer wound complications, more rapid return to normal activities and getting back to work sooner," said Paschal.

He said the laparoscopic approach is an option only for patients in early-stage cancer. It's one of the benefits of early detection through screening.

"Had she waited much longer, it would have been much larger and more difficult," Paschal said.

Senzig's prognosis might not have been as good and her hospitalization and recovery would have taken much longer.

"I was back to work in two and a half weeks. I had much less pain than I thought it would be," said Senzig.

Senzig was prescribed strong pain medication if she needed it, but she said all she ever used was over the counter Tylenol.

Men and women of average risk for colorectal cancer should begin screening at age 50. Blacks are considered at higher risk, so it is recommended that they be screened by age 45.

A family history of colorectal cancer is another risk factor. If you have a close relative who's had colorectal cancer, it is recommended that you seek screening at least 10 years earlier than your relative was diagnosed.