Q&A Topic: Technological Advances in Colon Cancer Surgery
Jerald D. Wishner, MD, FACS
Q. Why do I need a colonoscopy?
A. Colorectal cancer has very few warning signs, which makes screening crucial. By the time a patient is showing symptoms, which may include a change in bowel habits, blood in the stool, or pain in the abdomen, the cancer is often advanced and may be difficult to treat. Though many put off colonoscopy screenings, new technology ensures a painless and simple procedure. In fact, most patients report that the toughest part is drinking preparatory laxatives, which can have a chalky taste. Prior to the exam, patients are given a pain reliever and sedative, which allows them to relax and often dose off. The next thing they know, they’re in the recovery room.
Q. What happens if the screening finds cancer?
A. During a colonoscopy screening, doctors are able to remove suspicious polyps during the procedure. If the polyp is too big, it can be biopsied during the colonoscopy. If cancer is found and surgery is necessary, you can be reassured that technology has greatly improved outcomes for patients. The surgeon will only need to remove the part of the colon affected by cancer; most patients will be able to lead a normal life with no colostomy bag or difficult dietary restrictions.
Q. What are my options if I need surgery?
A. One of the most exciting developments in treating colon cancer is the use of robotic surgery, such as the da Vinci System at Northern Westchester Hospital. A small incision is all that’s needed to insert the robotically controlled instruments and camera. The surgeon operates the instruments from a console, which has a screen that provides a full-color, three-dimensional image of the operation site. Because the robot holds the instruments perfectly still and the movements are so precise, there is minimal damage to the surrounding tissues. Patients used to require seven days or more to recover from colon surgery using conventional methods. Now, 90 percent of patients are able to go home within one to two days. Pain is substantially reduced with this surgical option, allowing a patient a faster recovery without a need for much pain medication.
Learn More About Dr. Wishner
Co-Director, Institute of Robotic and Minimally Invasive Surgery
Medical Director, Colorectal Surgery Program
Northern Westchester Hospital
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