New Colon Cancer Surgery Helps Patients Recover More Quickly

Roxanne ShainRoxanne Shain exercises frequently, doesn't smoke and has always been healthy, so she was surprised when she found out she had colon cancer.


But thanks to a new procedure performed by a UW Carbone Cancer Center doctor, Roxanne was feeling back-to-normal only three weeks after her surgery.


When Roxanne turned 50, she decided to get a routine colonoscopy. Anurag Soni, MD, a gastroenterologist at UW Health, found a growth that turned out to be cancerous, so he sent her to Greg Kennedy, MD, PhD for a second look. Kennedy and his team of medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, gastroenterologists, and GI radiologists decided that a surgery called "laparoscopic resection" was the best route.


Laparoscopic colon resection is becoming more and more common as a means to treat colon cancer. Making a few small incisions to see inside the abdomen, surgeons can take a less-invasive approach to the operation than in the case of an "open colectomy." As a result, laparoscopic resection can reduce patient recovery time.


After reviewing Roxanne's case with the team, Kennedy decided she was a perfect candidate for an even less-invasive procedure called Single Incision Laparoscopy (SILS). This new kind of laparoscopic surgery requires only one abdominal incision.

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As one of only a few surgeons in the country who performs SILS, Dr. Kennedy describes the operation as difficult, but worthwhile to the patient.


"Since there is only one incision," he says, "there's theoretically less pain."


After the surgery, Roxanne barely noticed her scar.


"I had to ask the attending nurse whether they had actually performed the surgery," she remembers. "When she said it had gone smoothly, I couldn't believe it."


According to Kennedy, Roxanne's post-surgical reaction is fairly standard for patients undergoing SILS.


"We make only a tiny incision in the umbilicus (belly button), so it is fairly hard to notice."


Roxanne felt at ease when she checked in with another member of the GI team, Sam Lubner, MD after the procedure. She knew from the start that Lubner was open to addressing any concern.


"He made it clear that I should check in with him if something didn't feel right," she says, "so I felt confident in the treatment plan going forward."


"It pays to be flexible to the patient's understanding of her own risk," says Lubner, who is also a professor at the UW School of Medicine And Public Health. "We want people like Roxanne to know that we are going to be there for them whenever they have concerns. We don't want anyone losing out on treatment because of a lack of communication."


It's this attention to communication and willingness to try new approaches that helps to save lives. In taking a multidisciplinary approach, the physicians at UW Carbone Cancer Center work with each other and the patient to come up with the best treatment plan possible.


"Rather than working on our own, discussing patients in a cooperative atmosphere saves everyone time," Lubner explains. "It helps us provide high-quality care, and makes sure the whole health care team is pulling in the same direction."


In Roxanne Shain's case, the collaboration between doctors and patient led to a painless recovery period and a healthy outlook - something Kennedy, Lubner, and the rest of the GI cancer team at the UW Carbone Cancer Center strive for every day.


Date Published: 08/03/2011

News tag(s):  digestive healthgregory d kennedysam j lubnercancerouruwhealth

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