Surgery for diverticulitis and colon cancer

Surgery for diverticulitis and colon cancer

Diverticulitis and colon cancer are two distinct yet potentially serious conditions that can affect the digestive system. "Though different, diverticulitis and colon cancer can present with similar symptoms, including abdominal pain, changes in bowel habits, and fever," says Arielle C. DuBose, MD, FACS, FASCRS, General Surgery at ARC Medical Plaza Specialty in Cedar Park. "Despite their differences, both conditions necessitate timely diagnosis and tailored treatment, which may involve surgical intervention. Recognizing the potential overlap in symptoms is crucial for accurate diagnosis and appropriate management."

Understanding diverticulitis

Diverticulitis occurs when small pouches, called diverticula, in the colon, become inflamed or infected. This condition often arises due to weak spots in the colon wall, allowing the formation of these pouches. If left untreated, diverticulitis can lead to complications such as:

  • Abscess formation: Pockets of pus may develop within the inflamed diverticula, causing pain and fever.
  • Perforation: In severe cases, the diverticula can burst or tear, leading to a perforation in the colon wall and potentially causing life-threatening infections like peritonitis.

Understanding colon cancer

Colon cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is the abnormal growth of cells in the colon or rectum. It typically develops from polyps, which are small growths on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Over time, these polyps can become cancerous if not detected and removed via a polypectomy during a colonoscopy. Colon cancer is a significant health concern and can lead to serious complications if left untreated, including:

  • Metastasis: Cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver or lungs, through the bloodstream or lymphatic system.
  • Obstruction: As the tumor grows, it can block the normal flow of stool through the colon, causing symptoms like abdominal pain, constipation, or changes in bowel habits.

Diagnosis of diverticulitis and colon cancer

  • Diverticulitis: Diagnosis often involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, imaging tests (such as CT scans), and laboratory tests (such as blood tests to check for signs of infection).
  • Colon cancer: Screening methods for colon cancer may include colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, fecal occult blood tests, and imaging studies (such as CT scans or MRI).

Surgical treatment

  • Diverticulitis: Surgical treatment for diverticulitis may sometimes be necessary in cases of severe or recurrent disease. Procedures such as a sigmoid colectomy or Hartmann's procedure may be performed to remove the affected portion of the colon and reconnect the healthy segments.
  • Colon cancer: Surgery is the primary treatment for colon cancer, with the goal of removing the tumor and any surrounding lymph nodes. Depending on the stage and location of the cancer, procedures such as a colectomy, partial colectomy, or total abdominal colectomy may be performed. Learn more about colon cancer surgery.

Post-operative care

After surgery for diverticulitis or colon cancer, patients can expect a period of recovery and adjustment. This may involve:

  • Pain management with medication prescribed by the surgical team.
  • Dietary modifications, such as a temporary low-fiber diet or restrictions on certain foods to aid in healing.
  • Gradual resumption of normal activities under the guidance of healthcare professionals.
  • Follow-up appointments to monitor recovery and address any concerns or complications.

Possible side effects of surgery

While surgical treatment for diverticulitis and colon cancer can be effective, it may also be associated with certain side effects, including:

  • Pain or discomfort at the incision site.
  • Infection or wound complications.
  • Bowel dysfunction, such as diarrhea or constipation, especially in the immediate post-operative period.
  • Potential long-term effects on bowel function or digestion, depending on the extent of surgery and individual factors.

"In both colon cancer and diverticulitis, surgical management plays a crucial role in certain cases, offering the potential for improved outcomes and quality of life for affected individuals," says Dr. DuBose. "If you or someone you know is experiencing symptoms of diverticulitis or colon cancer, it's essential to seek prompt medical attention for proper evaluation and treatment."

Make an appointment today

ARC General Surgeons have specialized knowledge and experience related to diagnosis and pre-operative, operative, and post-operative management, combined with a patient-centered philosophy of coordinated care. At ARC, we provide the most up-to-date surgical and treatment options available.

Take the first step towards a healthier you and make an appointment today. Dr. DuBose has a Fellowship in Colorectal Surgery, and is accepting new patients, ages 18 and older, at ARC Medical Plaza Specialty in Cedar Park. Call 512-260-1581 or make an appointment through ARC MyChart or ARC Help Me Book.

Tags: Diverticulitis, colon cancer