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Bowel Cancer Surgery

Bowel cancer (also known as colorectal cancer) is usually treated surgically with removal of the affected segment of colon or rectum. Patients with cancer of the rectum may require initial treatment with chemotherapy and radiotherapy. This has been shown to enhance the success of surgery in controlling cancer in the pelvis. Radiotherapy is not used to treat carcinoma of the colon.    Bowel cancer surgery may be performed either with robotic, laparoscopic (keyhole) or traditional open techniques. Your doctor will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each approach with you.   Most patients having bowel cancer surgery will have the divided bowel reconnected with an “anastomosis”.  Bowel movements occur in the usual way.

For patients having surgery for rectal cancer a temporary stoma (ileostomy) may be necessary. This means that the faeces is diverted away from the pelvis and empties into a pouch on the abdominal wall. Patients will tumours close to the anus will occasionally need a permanent stoma (colostomy). Your doctor will discuss the reasons for this and the implications with you.

Bowel Surgery – Post Operative Instructions 

Most patients having bowel surgery are ready for discharge after 5-7 days. Some elderly patients or patients living alone may require a short period of convalescence prior to returning home. 



Patients will be advised if a specific diet is necessary. Some patients will need a low fibre diet for the first few months after surgery. Patients should eat small portions and chew their food well.

Wound care

Dressings can be removed 5 days after surgery. Staples are removed after 7-10 days.

Stoma education

A nurse specialist will teach patients how to care for their new stoma. Community stoma therapists are also available when ongoing support is needed. 


Laxatives should only be used after discussing this with your surgeon.

Anti-Diarrhoea Medication

Some patients having very frequent or urgent bowel motions may benefit from use of loperamide. You should discuss this with your surgeon before commencing use.



Patients should not drive for 3 weeks after laproscopic bowel surgery or 5 weeks after open surgery.



Regular walking is encouraged after discharge. Vigorous physical activity and core strengthening exercises should be avoided for at least 4 weeks (longer for open surgery).

Things to look out for

If you experience increasing abdominal pain, fevers or sweats, redness around the wound, or vomiting you should contact your surgeon.

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