Many conditions and diseases can affect the gastrointestinal tract, such as:
- Rectal cancer
- Colon cancer
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), (includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease)
Each of these conditions can cause chronic pain, as well as other disabling symptoms. When medication, lifestyle changes and other non-surgical treatments cannot relieve symptoms, surgery is the accepted treatment for a wide range of conditions.
During rectal cancer surgery, known as low anterior resection, the surgeon removes the diseased part of the rectum without affecting the anus. The colon is then attached to the remaining part of the rectum. This allows patients to move their bowels in the usual way and avoid colostomy (portion of large intestine brought through the abdomen to carry stool out of the body) bag.
In situations where the cancer is located very low in the rectum and invades the anal muscles, an abdominoperineal resection (commonly called APR) may be required. During an APR, the entire rectum is removed. Unfortunately, this procedure will require a colostomy bag for the patient.
During surgery for colon cancer, diverticulitis or IBD, all or part of the diseased colon is removed during what is called a colectomy, colon resection or hemicolectomy. Surgery on your right colon (ascending) is called a right colectomy; surgery on your left colon (descending) is a left colectomy; and surgery on the sigmoid colon (lower left colon just before the rectum) is called a sigmoid colectomy.
Surgery can be a scary proposition for a patient, no matter how routine the procedure. If surgery is recommended, you want to learn as much as you can about your surgical options and find the doctor and hospital that are right for you.