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Minimally invasive surgery: a lifesaver for some patients with colorectal problems

Bookmark and Share Picture a Lifesaver. Imagine a surgeon making an incision this small to perform a complex surgery. Known as minimally invasive surgery (MIS), Virtua's surgeons perform thousands of these procedures each year using our state-of-the-art operating rooms and sophisticated technology. What does minimally invasive really mean?
We hear it all the time, but what does minimally invasive surgery really mean for patients? Henry Talus, MD, Virtua colorectal surgeon explains: "MIS means performing surgery through small incisions (less than one inch) instead of long incisions." A smaller incision means that patients experience less pain, minimal scarring, less injury to healthy tissue, less blood loss, a shorter hospital stay and a faster return to normal activities. During MIS for colorectal problems, surgeons use a laparoscope - a pencil-thin instrument with its own lighting system and miniature video camera. This serves as the "eyes" of the operation, projecting everything onto a television screen. Only small incisions are needed to insert the miniature camera and instruments to perform the surgery. "Minimally invasive colorectal procedures are an effective alternative to traditional surgery, but may not be appropriate for everyone," says Dr. Talus. "About 10 to 20 percent of patients undergoing MIS colorectal surgery may require a larger incision to complete the operation. Excess scar tissue, bleeding and poor visualization are the most common reasons a surgeon may need to convert to an open incision during an MIS procedure." Converting to traditional surgery means a longer recovery time for patients, but it is necessary at times. It's important to discuss treatment options with your surgeon to determine the most appropriate approach for you. Innovative treatments bring hope
MIS can be used to treat many problems, including colon cancer. For patients suffering from colorectal cancer, the type of treatment your doctor recommends will depend largely on the stage of the cancer or how advanced it is. The three primary treatment options are surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. At the Fox Chase Virtua Health Cancer Treatment Center, innovative radiation therapy techniques are used to treat colorectal cancer. Sophisticated radiation treatments delivered through a machine called a linear accelerator deliver radiation precisely to the area containing the tumor. By doing so, healthy tissues and organs receive far smaller doses of radiation. Multidisciplinary teams provide the best care
"Before surgery, colorectal surgeons work closely with gastroenterologists (physicians who specialize in diseases of the digestive tract) to rule out diseases with similar symptoms," says Vincent McLaughlin, MD, Virtua gastroenterologist. "Determining the correct diagnosis is essential for effective treatment."

How a 15-minute test could save your life
Approximately 90 percent of all colon cancer starts as a polyp (a precancerous growth of cells on the colon). This makes regular screening critical, since early stage colon cancer is highly treatable. Dr. McLaughlin recommends both men and women have a colonoscopy at age 50, and those with a family history should start at age 40. After age 40, patients with a family history or those who have polyps should be screened every three to five years. Those with no polyps or family history should be screened every seven to 10 years. "Screening is extremely important for detecting polyps before they become cancerous," says Dr. McLaughlin. "It can also help find colorectal cancer in its early stages when you have a good chance for recovery. Like many people, you may be embarrassed by the screening procedures, worried about discomfort or afraid of the results," says Dr .McLaughlin. "With newer anesthesia, patients are completely sedated and usually comfortable during the procedure with only mild discomfort."

Henry Talus, MD, attended medical school at Kilpauk Medical College in India. He completed his internship and surgical residency at Harlem Hospital at Columbia University in New York City. Dr. Talus also completed a fellowship in colon and rectal surgery at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Florida. Dr. Talus has written articles on various surgical topics and issues, which have been published in publications such as the Journal of American College of Surgeons and the European Journal of Surgical Oncology. Vincent McLaughlin, MD, completed medical school at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. He completed his internal medicine residency at Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia and his fellowship in gastroenterology at Presbyterian Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. He is board certified in both internal medicine and gastroenterology.