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Dr. Praveen Kammar

MS, MRCS, MCH

Surgical Oncologist

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Stomach Tumor | 30 May 2022, Monday

Complications of Colon Cancer

complications of colon cancer
Colon cancer arises in the cells lining the inside of the large intestine. Adenocarcinoma is the most common variety of colon cancer. Cancer grows 3 dimensionally across the colonic wall. However, there are no symptoms until the cancer is big enough. As cancer progresses condition worsens, symptoms such as tenesmus, weakness, stomach discomfort, a sense that the bowels aren’t emptying, stool problems, mucus and blood in the stool, dark red stools, poor appetite, loss of weight, and fever reaching sub febrile levels are seen.

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Colon Cancer Complications

Cancers of the colon and rectum might result in several problems, including:

  • The psychological and emotional trauma after a cancer diagnosis
  • Intussusception: When one section of the intestine pushes into another area of the intestine (lead by the tumour), the bowel becomes obstructed and requires surgical repair.
complications of colon cancer

 

  • Bowel obstruction : A tumour large enough to occupy the cavity of the colon may cause obstruction to the passage of food and stools. 
  • Perforation : When cancer grows through the entire thickness of the bowel wall it may create a hole in the wall. The bowel contents may leak out and create a condition called peritonitis. This is a surgical emergency since the leakage of bowel contents into the abdomen may create a life-threatening infection called sepsis. 
  • Bleeding from cancer may cause anaemia and severe weakness. Sometimes this can cause a surgical emergency. 
  • Weight loss 
  • Spread of cancer to other organs- most commonly to nearby organs, nodes, liver, lungs and bones.
  • Treatment-related side effects.
  • Risk of Tumor recurrence after therapy. 

Also Read : What is a colostomy?

Complications after surgery

complications of colon cancer
The following are a few common complications associated with colon cancer surgery:

  • Bleeding: Bleeding is an uncommon complication of colon cancer surgery. When occurs there may be a need to perform a blood transfusion.
  • Infection: The surgical incisions may become infected after the surgery. This risk increases in the presence of diabetes, malnutrition, advanced age, immunocompromised status, bleeding, prolonged surgery and spillage of bowel contents during surgery. Meticulous technique, attention to sterility, and judicious use of antibiotics can prevent most infective episodes.
  • Respiratory infection : General anaesthesia given for surgery hampers lung function which may predispose some individuals to respiratory infections. Preoperative rehabilitation, chest physiotherapy, exercise, and incentive spirometry reduce the risk of respiratory infections. 
  • Deep vein thrombosis : Cancer is a condition that increases the clotting ability of blood. However, this is undesirable as this may cause clots in blood vessels. Such a risk is high during surgery. Blood vessels of the lower limb are more prone to this condition. 

Usage of stockings, pneumatic pumps, lower molecular weight heparin and early mobilisation after surgery is used to prevent deep vein thrombosis surgery. 

  • Bladder and bowel issues: The patient may have bowel and bladder issues for the first few days following surgery. Since colon cancer surgery entails the removal of a part of the large intestine, the patient may experience an increase in bowel frequency. However, these issues usually go away with time. It’s crucial that you speak with your oncologist if this issue persists.
  • Nearby organs are injured: The neighbouring organs may suffer damage during colectomy. An injury might occur to nearby organs such as the stomach, ureter, duodenum, pancreas, spleen and major blood vessels. The risk of injury is higher when the tumour is in an advanced stage. Such injuries can complicate recovery and prolonged hospital stays. However, in experienced hands, the risk of such injuries is extremely minimal.
  • Anastomotic leakage : After colon cancer removal, bowel continuity is established by joining the bowel segment that lies just before the removed segment to the segment that lies just after. One of the most important complications of colon surgery is leakage from the site where intestines are joined.

Meticulous technique and attention to detail can prevent this complication. 

Also Read : Why is Liver Cancer so deadly?

stages of colorectal cancer

Is removal of colon necessary?

Surgery forms a very important part of the treatment for colon cancer. 

However, there are some instances where you may avoid surgery. 

e.g. 

  1. When your cancer is caught very early and the entire tumour can be successfully removed with endoscopy. Several tumour-related microscopic features have to be assessed to decide if surgery can be avoided after endoscopic removal. 
  2. when you are diagnosed with precancerous conditions like dysplasia.

In some advanced stages also, your oncologist may decide to avoid surgery. 

e.g. 

  • When there is a stage 4 cancer that has spread to other organs and curative surgery is not possible. 
  • when the overall health of the patient is too poor to withstand surgery. 

Conclusion

Colon cancer does not give rise to significant symptoms in the early stage. Hence seeking medical attention early when you have worrisome issues can help in catching this cancer early. Early diagnosis and treatment by experts will give you a successful treatment.

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