Surgery for bowel cancer
The type of surgery you have will depend on the location of the cancer in the bowel and your preferences. The aim of surgery is to remove as much of the cancer as possible and 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 advise which method is most suitable for you.
Also called minimally invasive or laparoscopic surgery, this method involves several small cuts (incisions) in the abdomen. A thin tube (laparoscope) is passed through one of the cuts. The laparoscope has a light and camera. Long, thin instruments are inserted through 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 involves one long cut (incision) down the middle of your abdomen. Open surgery usually means a larger wound and slower recovery, and it requires a longer hospital stay. Open surgery is a well-established technique and widely available.
Video: What is surgery?
A/Prof Craig Lynch, Colorectal Surgeon, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Prof Tim Price, Medical Oncologist, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Adelaide, and Clinical Professor, Faculty of Medicine, The University of Adelaide, SA; Department of Dietetics, Liverpool Hospital, NSW; Dr Hooi Ee, Gastroenterologist, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA; Dr Debra Furniss, Radiation Oncologist, Genesis CancerCare, QLD; Jocelyn Head, Consumer; Jackie Johnston, Palliative Care and Stomal Therapy Clinical Nurse Consultant, St Vincent’s Private Hospital, NSW; Zeinah Keen, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council NSW; Dr Elizabeth Murphy, Head, Colorectal Surgical Unit, Lyell McEwin Hospital, SA. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions.
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