Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in this country and is typically detected by colonoscopy. The current recommendation is to have a screening colonoscopy at age 50 if asymptomatic, and at age 40 or earlier if a first degree relative was diagnosed with colon cancer. If a tumor or mass is found on colonscopy, the endoscopist will likely perform biopsies. If the biopsies demonstrate malignancy, or if the tumor is too large for the endoscopist to remove, you will need a colon resection. Like all cancers, if detected early, the cure rates are high.

Colon surgery is also performed for non-cancerous conditions, such as benign polyps, strictures, inflammatory disease and diverticulitis. Diverticuli are small out-pouchings in the colon. They are increasingly common with age and are due in part to a Western diet (relatively low fiber). Diverticulitis occurs when a diverticulum gets inflamed or ruptures. Mild forms of diverticulitis are treated with antibiotics and dietary modification (increasing fiber). Recurrent or more severe attacks may be treated surgically.

Surgical approaches include traditional open and minimally invasive (robotic and advanced laparoscopic) techniques where the affected portion of the colon is removed and the two ends are sewn back together. Minimally invasive surgery offers the advantage of decreased pain, superior cosmetic results, shorter hospital stay and recovery.

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