Questions about an Upcoming Colon Surgery

Dr. Timothy Hoops
Last Modified: November 1, 2001

Dear OncoLink "Ask the Experts,"
I have Colon Cancer, apparently at the beginning of my colon. I will soon be having surgery for this and diverticula surgery on the lower end of the colon. I have many questions.

  • Can both procedures be done at the same time?
  • Is there risk of spreading the cancer to the "open" wound where the diverticula are removed?
  • How will I know if I need radiation and/or chemo?
  • How long will the surgery keep me out of work?
  • What questions should I be asking the surgeon?
  • What questions should I be asking my Gastroenterolist?
  • How do you choose the right guy and the right place?
I thank you in advance of your answers.

Dr. Timothy Hoops, Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Gastroenterology Division at the University of Pennsylvania and Director of Gastroenterology at Penn Medicine at Radnor, responds:

First, your gastroenterologist and your surgeon are the best ones to answer all these questions, as they know the most details about the extent of your disease and that information will determine the course of your therapy.

Finding the right physician may be hard, but you can ask your friends and other physicians for their opinions. You should meet with and "interview" the doctors before anything further is done. The most important things are that they are experienced and you are comfortable with them. If not, choose another doctor. Sometimes a person with a great reputation may be worth having despite their "bedside manner" but remember they have to take care of you.

Two colonic resections can be done simultaneously, if necessary. It makes the operation longer, but should not put you at risk for spread of the cancer, if done correctly.

Whether you need further therapy such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy will be determined by the extent of the cancer as determined by the pathologist after your surgery. If it has spread outside the colon, your oncologist will probably recommend treatment (adjuvant chemotherapy).

The recovery period varies from one person to another. In the usual case, you will probably be in the hospital for about one week. Your recovery time before returning to work may be 6 weeks, but that will depend on the type of work you do as well as your individual progress.