Colon cancer starts in the large intestine (colon) or the rectum (end of the colon). This condition is also called colorectal cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, colon cancer is one of the most common cancers diagnosed in the United States for both men and women. Nearly all colon cancers begin as noncancerous polyps (an extra piece of tissue that grows inside your body) that slowly develop into cancer. Accordingly, early diagnosis often leads to a complete cure by removing the non-cancerous polyps.
Colon cancer can be treated in several different ways, depending mainly on the stage of the disease and the location of the tumor in the colon or rectum. Treatment may involve surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy.
Some patients have radiation, surgery and chemotherapy. Radiation therapy is sometimes used to treat colon cancer, although it is sometimes used to relieve pain and other symptoms.
Surgery is the primary treatment for colon cancer. The primary procedure is called a colectomy. This involves surgical removal (resection) of a segment of the colon or rectum. A low anterior colectomy is a specific treatment for cancer at the sigmoid (pelvic colon) and rectum. The goal of low anterior resection surgery is to remove the cancerous tumor without affecting the anus, thus preserving normal bowel function.
The vast majority of colorectal procedures are still performed using a large abdominal incision that often extends from the pubic bone to just below the sternum. This "open" surgery can be quite painful, requires an extended hospital stay of 4-7 days and presents an increased risk of complications including infection.
Fortunately, less invasive options are available. The most common of these is conventional laparoscopic surgery, in which smaller incisions are used. While this approach is effective for many routine procedures, it has inherent limitations when the surgery is more complex.
Boulder Community Hospital offers the latest approach to colorectal surgery -- robot-assisted surgery with the da Vinci Surgical System. Benefits of da Vinci surgery include:
- Significantly less pain
- Potentially less blood loss
- Fewer complications - including reduced risk of infection
- Less scarring – 1-2 cm incisions versus 6-8 inches with open surgery
- Shorter hospital stay
- Quicker recovery from surgery and return to normal routine
- Pelvic nerve sparing
The state-of-the-art da Vinci robot allows some complex surgeries to be performed as minimally invasive procedures. Through tiny 1-2 cm incisions, a surgeon using the da Vinci system can operate with precision and control while minimizing the pain that often accompanies the large incisions associated with open surgery. Laparoscopic resections usually employ a small 3-inch incision to remove the specimen.
The surgeon uses special hand controls to guide robotic arms that hold specially designed surgical instruments. The latest computer technology converts the surgeon’s large hand movements into precise small movements, resulting in tremendous dexterity. The robotic "wrists" can rotate a full 360 degrees, enabling your surgeon to control the miniature surgical instruments with unprecedented accuracy, flexibility and range of motion.
The da Vinci System requires that every surgical maneuver be performed with direct input from your surgeon – the machine cannot move on its own.
The three-dimensional, high definition da Vinci camera supplies your surgeon with a magnified view of the internal organs that’s better than normal vision. The enhanced visualization and greater degree of movement offered by the da Vinci System provides a minimally invasive alternative that can be used effectively for a low anterior resection.
For more information on the da Vinci System’s leading-edge robotic technology, click here.
Contact a general surgeon to find out if robot-assisted surgery may be your best treatment option.
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