Sphincter-Sparing Rectal Surgery
Cancers that are in the lower portion of the rectum are often difficult to treat because of their proximity to the anal sphincter muscles. Since these muscles control bowel movements, a permanent colostomy will be needed to eliminate waste if the anal sphincter muscles are removed.
One way to avoid a permanent colostomy is through rectal surgery in which the sphincter is spared. A patient undergoing this type of surgery is eventually able to pass bowel movements through his or her anus.
There are three major options for patients undergoing sphincter-sparing rectal surgery.
- Removing the cancer, but keeping the anal canal and sphincter muscles intact. A pouch is formed from the healthy colon to store waste and is sewn in the anal canal.
- Local excision, which is performed through the anus or near the tailbone. It is used with small cancers that are very close to the anus.
- Neoadjuvant therapy uses radiation or chemotherapy to shrink tumors prior to surgery. The therapy is provided for about three months, after which the patient is given time (about six weeks) for the tumor to decrease in size prior to surgery.