patient having bowel cancer surgery

Bowel cancer patients may avoid the need for colostomy bags with a new type of treatment, cancer doctors have said.

A study organised by Cancer Research UK presented results this week in which a new technique involving stents reduced the need for a colostomy bag post emergency bowel cancer surgery by 24%. By reducing the need for colostomy bags, this new technique has the potential to drastically improve the quality of life of bowel cancer patients.

Many cases of bowel cancer are only detected once a tumour causes a blockage in the bowels which requires emergency surgery to remove the tumour and thus reverses the blockage. In fact, 1 in 5 tumour removal surgeries are emergency operations, according to the BBC. However, these carry a much higher risk of complications as the bowels are more fragile during this period.

The new technique involves inserting a temporary stent into the bowels to release the blockage. This allows surgeons to delay removing the tumour until after the bowels have healed, reducing the risk of having to use a colostomy bag. Of the patients in the trial receiving the new stent technique, only 45% required colostomy bags compared to 69% in patients undergoing traditional emergency surgery.

Colostomy bags are used for the collection of faeces, and many people find them intimidating and difficult to get used to. So having an option that can allow people to avoid having one without increasing the risk of cancer spread is welcomed.

James Hill, who led the study, said: “Traditionally doctors have worried that unblocking the bowel in this way could increase the chance of cancer spreading, but our early results don’t show this.

“We’re also pleased to see that this could be a way of reducing the risk of patients needing a colostomy bag after their surgery, which is a huge improvement to patients’ day-to-day lives.”

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