Colorectal surgery is the subspecialty of general surgery that deals with diseases and conditions of the large intestine (also known as the colon), the rectum and the anus. Colorectal diseases including cancer have become more prevalent in modern society, in part due to poor diets and the sedentary lifestyles most of us live. In fact, it is estimated that obese patients have a 30% higher risk of colon and rectal cancer than normal weight patients.
Many colon problems are preventable and even those that do progress to disease, are often very treatable when addressed early. The most common conditions that our colorectal team treats include:
The colon spans the perimeter of the abdomen and therefore the signs and symptoms of colorectal disease are often nonspecific – meaning that other abdominal conditions may share those same symptoms. However, improvements in diagnostic technology including ultrasound, MRI and CT scans have allowed us to identify these issues with ever greater precision. The most common symptom of colon disease is discomfort or pain. This may be dull or sharp, sporadic or persistent. Another very common symptom is blood in the stool. Some conditions have very specific signs such as appendicitis and diverticulitis, while others may be more generalized like colon cancer.
There’s no single effective treatment for all colon diseases and treatment is largely dependent on the condition. Some cases of colorectal disease may simply require watchful waiting. This will include conditions that are slow growing or at low risk of progressing.
Medical therapies can be employed to reduce symptoms, however their effectiveness only lasts as long as the patient takes medication. Usually, medical therapies are not curative. For some, medical therapies do not offer sufficient improvement in symptoms or side effects are simply too great and the patient may wish to discontinue.
Surgery is a viable option for most patients with colorectal problems. Certain conditions such as appendicitis require emergent surgery due to the high-risk of non-treatment. Other conditions such as diverticulitis and colon cancer may be cured using a procedure known as a colectomy – where part of the colon is removed. Learn more about colectomy and colorectal surgery.