For patients who have colorectal cancer in the lower part of the colon, surgeons often remove both the rectum and the anus. If the anus is removed, the patient typically needs a permanent colostomy, which collects stool in a bag that is attached to the abdominal wall.
For some low rectal cancers, our colon and rectal surgeons at UMass Memorial Medical Center now perform a more advanced type of surgery that eliminates the need for a permanent colostomy. Called sphincter-sparing surgery, this procedure allows for safe removal of the tumor and "spares" the anal sphincter muscle.
Advantages of Sphincter-sparing Surgery
This surgery allows you to retain control over your bowel movements; it also:
- Enhances your quality of life
- Provides cancer cure rates equal to more extreme surgery
- Eliminates the need to remove the sphincter muscles and anus, which allows you to eventually return to passing bowel movements through your anus
What Happens During Sphincter-sparing Surgery?
Your surgeon removes tumors outside the layer of tissue surrounding the rectum, working in a plane that preserves the sphincter muscle while completely removing the cancer. This lowers the risk that cancer cells will be left behind in the pelvis.
Treatments to Reduce the Risk of Recurring Cancer
Before this type of surgery, you will usually receive both radiation and chemotherapy. This preoperative combination can help to:
- Reduce the risk the disease will recur
- Eliminate the need to remove the sphincter muscles and anus, which allows you to eventually return to passing bowel movements through your anus