Surgery for a blocked bowel (bowel obstruction)
Sometimes as the bowel cancer grows it completely blocks the bowel. This is called a bowel obstruction. Waste matter cannot pass through the blocked bowel easily, and may cause:
- bloating and abdominal pain
- nausea and vomiting.
Sometimes the obstruction is found and cleared during the surgery to remove the cancer. In other cases, you will need emergency surgery to clear the blockage.
It may be possible to rejoin the bowel during the surgery, but some people may need a stoma. Sometimes a stoma is made “upstream” from the obstruction to relieve the blockage and to allow time for staging scans of the cancer or chemoradiation to take place before surgery.
Not everyone with a blocked bowel will want to have surgery or be fit enough to have it. Instead, to help keep the bowel open so that faeces can pass through again, your surgeon may be able to put a small hollow tube (stent) inside the colon. A stent may also help manage the blockage until you are well enough to have surgery. Your surgeon will use a colonoscope to find the blockage and place the stent.
A dietitian can suggest ways to add more fibre to your diet to help food or waste pass through the blockage or stent more easily.
If you are unable to have surgery or a stent, you may be given medicine to help control the symptoms of a bowel obstruction.
Podcast: Coping with a Cancer Diagnosis
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.
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