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Benefits of Minimally Invasive Surgery for Colorectal Cancer

Benjamin Martin, MD

October 07, 2019

March is a special month, and not just because of basketball season. Though basketball fever is spinning around us, this is also when we work to increase awareness about colorectal cancer and promote colorectal cancer screening, which saves lives.

A few key facts: Colorectal cancer is the 3rd leading cause of cancer death in the United States. The lifetime risk of being diagnosed with colorectal cancer in this country is 4.4%. Most colorectal cancer diagnoses are made in people age 50 and older.

Age and family history are the most important risk factors for developing the disease. But obesity, smoking, lack of physical activity, red meat consumption and alcohol use may also contribute.

If you or someone you know is diagnosed with colorectal cancer, surgery will likely be key to treatment. Depending on the stage at which the cancer is diagnosed, surgery may precede other treatments or occur after chemotherapy and/or radiation. In some early cases, surgery alone may be the only necessary treatment.

Multidisciplinary decision-making

At The University of Kansas Cancer Center, a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center, complex colorectal cancer cases are presented and discussed at a weekly tumor conference. The tumor conference includes multidisciplinary specialists in medical oncology, radiation oncology, radiology, pathology and surgery. Together, they thoroughly discuss the patient’s case to make evidence-based treatment plans and offer the opportunity for the patient to take part in clinical trials.

Open vs. keyhole techniques

Nationwide, approximately half of all colorectal cancer surgeries are performed using the traditional open method as opposed to the minimally invasive techniques. Minimally invasive surgery refers to the use of small keyhole incisions through which laparoscopic or robotic instruments are inserted to surgically remove the colorectal cancer.

When compared to traditional open surgery, the benefits of minimally invasive surgery are:

  • Decreased pain and narcotic use
  • Lower infection rates
  • Reduced risk of blood clots
  • Improved cosmetic result
  • Shorter hospital stays
  • Quicker return to work

These advanced minimally invasive surgeries are more often performed at larger medical centers like The University of Kansas Cancer Center. For these reasons, our fellowship-trained surgeons at The University of Kansas Cancer Center prefer to perform laparoscopic and robotic da Vinci surgery to remove colorectal cancer when appropriate.

Minimally invasive surgery is a key component to improve outcomes across all phases of colorectal cancer care – preoperative, intraoperative and postoperative.

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