Surgery for cancer in the colon
The most common type of surgery for colon cancer is a colectomy.
It may be done as open surgery or keyhole surgery. There are different types of colectomies depending on which part of the colon is removed. Lymph nodes near the colon and some normal bowel around the cancer will also be removed.
The surgeon usually cuts the bowel on either side of the cancer (with a small border of healthy tissue called the margin) and then joins the two ends of the bowel back together. This join is called an anastomosis.
Sometimes one end of the bowel is brought through an opening made in your abdomen and stitched onto the skin. This procedure is called a colostomy (if made from the large bowel) or ileostomy (if made from the small bowel). The opening – called a stoma – allows faeces to be removed from the body and collected in a bag.
The stoma is usually temporary, and the operation is reversed later. In some cases, the stoma is permanent. Advances in surgical techniques have led to fewer people needing a permanent stoma. Learn more about stomas.
After surgery, you will have a scar. Most people who have open surgery have a scar from above their navel to their pubic area.
Types of colectomies
* If the transverse colon is also removed, it is called an extended right
or left hemicolectomy.
Right hemicolectomyThe right side of the colon is removed.*
Left hemicolectomyThe left side of the colon is removed.*
Transverse colectomyThe middle part of the colon is removed.
Sigmoid colectomyThe sigmoid colon is removed.
Subtotal or total colectomyMost or all of the bowel is removed.
ProctocolectomyAll of the colon and rectum are removed.
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.
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