Surgery for bowel cancer
The type of surgery you have will depend on the position of the cancer in the bowel and your preferences. The aim of surgery is to remove as much of the cancer as possible and the nearby lymph nodes.
Learn more about:
- How the surgery is done
- Surgery for cancer in the colon
- Surgery for cancer in the rectum
- Other types of surgery
- Surgery for a blocked bowel (bowel obstruction)
- Risks of bowel surgery
- Side effects of bowel surgery
- What to expect after surgery
- Video: What is surgery?
There are two ways to perform surgery for bowel cancer. Each method has advantages in particular situations – your doctor will discuss which method is most suitable for you.
The surgeon makes several small cuts (incisions) in the abdomen and passes a thin tube with a light and camera (laparoscope) into one of the openings.
Long, thin instruments are put into the other small cuts to remove the section of bowel with the cancer. Keyhole surgery usually means less pain and scarring, a shorter hospital stay and faster recovery.
This is usually done with one long cut (incision) down the middle of your abdomen. Open surgery usually means a larger wound, slower recovery and a longer hospital stay. Open surgery is a well-established technique and widely available.
Video: What is surgery?
A/Prof David A Clark, Colorectal Surgeon, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, and The University of Queensland, QLD, and The University of Sydney, NSW; A/Prof Siddhartha Baxi, Radiation Oncologist and Medical Director, GenesisCare Gold Coast, QLD; Dr Hooi Ee, Specialist Gastroenterologist and Head, Department of Gastroenterology, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA; Annie Harvey, Consumer; A/Prof Louise Nott, Medical Oncologist, Icon Cancer Centre, Hobart, TAS; Caley Schnaid, Accredited Practising Dietitian, GenesisCare, St Leonards and Frenchs Forest, NSW; Chris Sibthorpe, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland; Dr Alina Stoita, Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist, St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney, NSW; Catherine Trevaskis, Gastrointestinal Cancer Specialist Nurse, Canberra Hospital, ACT; Richard Vallance, Consumer.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
Coping with cancer?
Ask a health professional or someone who’s been there, or find a support group or forum
Looking for transport, accommodation or home help?
Practical advice and support during and after treatment