The colon, or large intestine, is the tube-like part of the digestive tract that stores stool and pushes it out from the body. It is five to six feet long. Once food is eaten it arrives at the colon after passing through the stomach and small intestine. Fluids and nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream, stool is consolidated, and then moved down to the anus for elimination. A healthy colon has a smooth, protective lining. Colon tissue can undergo changes and growths or other problems can occur that may require surgery.
A benign polyp is a non-cancerous growth, ranging in size from a pea to a golf ball. The larger the polyp, the greater the chance of containing or developing cancer. While polyps are not cancer, they are often thought of as pre-malignant or a precursor to cancer. The goal of early removal of polyps is to prevent them from progressing into cancer.
A cancer is made up of abnormal cells that are growing out of control. They can grow into the colon lining and spread to other parts of the body. The earlier cancers are removed, the greater the chance of preventing cancer spread. Colon cancer usually spreads first to nearby lymph nodes, and then to the liver, lungs, or other organs, establishing new cancers. This spread is called metastasis.
Great care is taken to ensure a good oncologic outcome. Appropriate resection margins are chosen to properly eradicate all cancer, if technically possible. Lymph nodes adjacent the colon are removed with the colon and analyzed microscopically for proper cancer staging. Chemotherapy after recovery from surgery may be indicated if cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.