- Bowel cancer
- Treatment for early bowel cancer
- The risks and side effects of bowel surgery
The risks and side effects of bowel surgery
Here we discuss the risks and side effects that are commonly associated with bowel surgery.
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Your surgeon will talk to you about the risks and complications of bowel surgery. As with any major operation, surgery for bowel cancer has risks. These may include infection, bleeding, blood clots, damage to nearby organs, or leaking from the joins between the remaining parts of the bowel. You will be carefully monitored for any side effects afterwards.
For information on what to expect after surgery, see the next two pages.
You may also experience some of the side effects discussed below.
Most hospitals in Australia have programs to reduce the stress of surgery and improve your recovery. These are called enhanced recovery after surgery (ERAS) or fast-track surgical (FTS) programs. They encourage you to play an active part in your care through pre-admission counselling and education about pain control, diet and exercise so you know what to expect each day after the surgery.
Changes in bowel and sexual function
You may notice changes to how your bowel and bladder work. These changes usually improve within a few months but, for some people, it can take longer. Erection problems can also be an issue after rectal cancer surgery.
For more on this, see Sexuality, intimacy and cancer.
Changes to your diet
For more on this, see Managing bowel and dietary changes.
It is normal to feel tired after surgery. Although it’s a good idea to stay active and do gentle exercise as recommended by your doctor, you may find that you tire easily and need to rest during the day. Take breaks if you feel tired, and follow your doctor’s advice about restrictions, such as avoiding heavy lifting. You might have to remind your family and friends that it may take several months to recover from surgery.
For more on this, see Fatigue.
Temporary or permanent stoma
For more on this, see Having a stoma.
Podcast: Managing Cancer Fatigue
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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