The aims are to remove the diseased part of your large bowel. If there is a tumour, nearby lymph glands are also taken out for examination under the microscope. The operation is usually done through a cut down the middle of your tummy (midline incision). An extra cut will be made if you need a stoma.
The operation will rid you of the part of the bowel that is causing your symptoms. It will be designed to minimise the risk of the condition coming back.
For emergencies such as bowel obstruction, severe bleeding, a burst bowel, or a dead bowel, the operation should be life saving.
Are there any alternatives?
Tablets and medicines would not be helpful. Neither would x-ray and laser treatment.
Without an operation, x-ray treatment or chemotherapy for bowel cancer would not give such a good result.
Operations to bypass the diseased part of the bowel may be best if the condition would be dangerous to remove. An alternative is to make a stoma well above the condition.
If you are not fit enough for major surgery, simple trimming of a tumour with an electric knife (cautery) or a laser may give good relief from symptoms.
Sometimes part or all of the operation can be done using keyhole surgery. This would mean 4 or more inch (2.5cm) long cuts in the skin of the tummy wall, instead of one long one. A stoma may still be needed.
What if you do nothing?
If you do nothing, your bowel symptoms will get worse.A tumour may completely block the bowel. It may spread into other parts of the tummy and pelvis, such as the bladder or vagina. It may press on the ureters, stopping the flow of urine from the kidneys to the bladder. It may press on the veins taking blood from the legs, causing them to swell. Malignant tumours are life threatening.
The other conditions are also serious and should not be left untreated.
Author: Mr Michael Edwards FRCSEng FRCSEd. Consultant general surgeon.
© Dumas Ltd 2006