Surgery for colon cancer

Most people have surgery for colon cancer that hasn't spread. The operation you have depends on the position of the cancer in the bowel.

This section is about surgery for cancer that starts in the large bowel (colon cancer) that hasn't spread to another part of the body. 

Types of surgery for colon cancer

The type of surgery you have for cancer of the large bowel (colon) depends on the position and the size of the cancer in the bowel.  

Preparing for surgery

You have an appointment at the pre assessment clinic 1 or 2 weeks before your operation. You have tests to check you are fit for surgery and meet the team who will be looking after you. 

Surgery to remove a small part of the bowel lining (local resection)

Local resection is for small, early stage colon cancers. Your surgeon removes the cancer from the bowel lining, along with a border of healthy tissue (margin).

Surgery to remove all of or a part of your bowel (colectomy)

Your surgeon might remove part of the colon containing the tumour. This is called a colectomy. 

Having a colostomy

A colostomy is an operation to create an opening (stoma) of the large bowel (colon) onto the surface of the tummy (abdomen).

Having an ileostomy

An ileostomy is an opening (stoma) of the small bowel (ileum) onto the surface of the tummy (abdomen).

After surgery for bowel cancer

After a big operation, you might wake up in the intensive care unit (ICU) or high dependency unit (HDU). You are likely to have a drip into your arm to give you fluids until you are eating and drinking again. 

Problems after surgery

There is a risk of problems or complications after any operation for bowel cancer including: infections, blood clots and bleeding. 

Surgery for advanced cancer

You might have surgery if advanced bowel cancer blocks your bowel and causes symptoms of bowel obstruction.  Sometimes you can have surgery to remove cancer that has spread to your liver or lungs. 

Last reviewed: 
28 Jan 2022
Next review due: 
28 Jan 2025