(WIBW) - Surgery techniques have come a long way.
Conditions that once meant more than a month recovering from surgery can now be handled with less risk, and less pain.
Dr. Michael McCann of Cotton-O'Neil Surgery says advances in minimally invasive techniques have changed the way doctors approach colon surgery. He says the old technique involved a 12 to 16 inch incisions. Now, it's as small as four inches, with a few smaller incisions through which instruments are inserted.
Dr. McCann says minimally invasive procedures can be used to remove colon cancers and polyps, or address complications of conditions like crones disease and colitis.
In such a procedure, he says a small incision is made through which a hand can be inserted. Air is used to inflate the abdomen and expose the organs. A smaller incision is use to place a camera for doctors to view monitors and see the area. Two or three other smaller incisions may be made for other instruments.
The small approach can be a big benefit for patients. Dr. McCann says a smaller incision means a decreased risk of infection and less pain. Plus, there's less time in the hospital and can be back to work more quickly. Instead of 4 to 6 weeks recovery, he says, it's usually 2 to 3 weeks.
There are limits. Dr. McCann says minimally invasive techniques can't be used when someone has had a prior surgery with a lot scarring or on a cancer that has spread outside the colon.
Major surgeries for colon cancer could be avoided, though, with early detection. Doctors say routine colonoscopies can catch and remove the polyps that turn into cancer before they're a problem.
March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month.