{Colorectal Surgery}

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes Crohn’s disease?
Doctors don’t know what causes Crohn’s disease, but they do know that bacteria and viruses may play a role. The disorder can run in families, and smoking is believed to increase the risk of contracting Crohn’s.

How are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis diagnosed?
Diagnosis of these inflammatory bowel disorders typically includes a physical exam, X-rays and lab tests to rule out other conditions. Your physician may conduct a colonoscopy, barium X-ray, biopsy or stool analysis to determine whether you have Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis or neither.

What is the difference between external and internal hemorrhoids?
Internal hemorrhoids often are small, swollen veins in the wall of the anal canal. With internal hemorrhoids, you may see bright red streaks of blood on toilet paper or bright red blood in the toilet bowl after you have a normal bowel movement.

External hemorrhoids are large, sagging veins that bulge out of the anus all the time. They can be painful if they bulge out and are squeezed by the anal muscles. External hemorrhoids can bleed, and then the blood pools, causing a hard painful lump.

How common is rectal prolapse?
Rectal prolapse is not common and affects primarily elderly individuals. The disease is very rare among children. Caused by the weakening of ligaments around the anus, rectal prolapse is sometimes associated with long-term constipation or diarrhea or cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis or paralysis.

What happens during laparoscopic colon surgery?
During laparoscopic surgery, a tiny camera (the laparoscope) and other surgical instruments are inserted through very small incisions in the skin, each about a 1/2 inch long. Using a video monitor in the operating room, the surgeon visualizes structures inside the body and performs the operation on the colon.

The portion of the colon containing the tumor may be brought outside of the body through another small opening. After the diseased section of the colon is removed, the healthy portions are connected to each other.

Does colorectal surgery affect sexual function?
If you are a woman having colorectal surgery, you probably will not experience any loss of sexual function, although scar tissue may sometimes cause pain or discomfort during intercourse. If you are a man, colorectal surgery may affect your sexual function to varying degrees. However, your physician will be able to discuss this sensitive topic with you more in depth and address any concerns you may have.

What is the difference between colon cancer, rectal cancer and colorectal cancer?
Cancers of the colon and rectum are identical with regard to risk and biology; however, treatment for each is sometimes different. Since they have many features in common, the term “colorectal cancer” is often used as a blanket term for cancer that starts in the colon and/or rectum.

From a surgical perspective, colon cancers are technically easier to remove and have less chance of recurrence in the area near where the tumor was removed. Rectal cancer has a greater risk of recurrence, and often, your treatment for rectal cancer might combine radiation therapy and surgery.

What are the “signs” of colorectal cancer?
Since colorectal cancer often develops slowly over many years, you may not have any symptom. Therefore, it’s best to get regular screenings. There are some warning signs of cancer, including thin or bloody stools, stomach cramps, unexplained weight loss, fatigue or feeling as if you have to go to the bathroom when you don’t.

I have colon cancer. Will I have to have a colostomy or urostomy?
It depends on the stage and extent of your colorectal cancer. If the cancer is located near your anus, your anus may have to be removed during surgery, in which case you would need a colostomy. If the cancer has spread to your bladder, you may need a urostomy. Many patients who undergo colorectal surgery do not require either one. You and your physician will discuss the likelihood before surgery based on your individual condition.

If you do require a colostomy and/or urostomy, specially trained nurses will answer any questions you may have before your operation and will teach you how to manage your colostomy and/or urostomy. They also will meet with you again after surgery to provide more training.

What are the survival rates for colorectal cancer?
As with other types of cancer, early detection and treatment for colorectal cancer is key. Five-year survival rates are relatively high for patients with early stage (I and II) colorectal cancer; however, every person is unique, and statistics can’t predict exactly what will happen in your case.

Regardless of your condition, it is important to follow your physician’s directions and stay positive throughout treatment to ensure your best possible recovery.