If colorectal cancer has not spread beyond the colon or lymph nodes, surgical removal of the cancer is the most common treatment. Surgical procedures for rectal cancer are more complex than for colon cancer. In rectal surgery more tissues and muscles related to urinary and sexual functions are involved.

Polypectomy and Local Excision

A colonoscope is placed through the anus and rectum, up into the colon. Instruments are inserted through the colonoscope tube to remove early stage cancer.

Partial Colectomy

If the cancer is larger, both the cancer and a small amount of healthy tissue and nearby lymph nodes will be removed. This is called a partial colectomy. In many cases, the healthy portions of the colon and rectum are reconnected. This reconnection procedure is called anastomosis. If your surgeon can possibly preserve your anal function, and ultimately avoid the need for a permanent colostomy, that is generally considered a preferred procedure.

Laparoscopic-assisted Colectomy

In some cases, it is possible to remove part of the colon and nearby lymph nodes through several small incisions in the abdomen. Laparoscopes are equipped with cameras that allow the surgeon to see inside the abdomen. Special instruments are inserted through tubes to remove the cancer. Healing time and recovery are somewhat faster than with an open colectomy.

Total Colectomy

A total colectomy is the removal of the entire colon. The last part of the small intestine, called the ileum, is then connected to the rectum. In some cases, a small pouch is made from the ileum to store stool. This pouch mimics the function of the rectum. This surgery preserves anal function and the need for a permanent colostomy.

Surgical Resection of a Colorectal Tumor Mass
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


If it is not possible to reconnect the colon, a colostomy is necessary. A colostomy is a surgical opening (stoma) through the wall of the abdomen into the colon. This is used as a path for waste material to leave the body. After a colostomy, you will wear a special bag to collect body waste. The colostomy may be either temporary or permanent. In cases where the entire colon is removed, the small bowel will be used to create the stoma.