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Minimally invasive colon cancer surgery is effective

St. Louis, May 12, 2004 -- Getting treated for a common type of cancer just became easier: An international team of surgeons including two at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has determined that minimally invasive surgery is as safe and effective as standard open surgery for most patients with cancer confined to the colon.

In addition to the cosmetic benefits of having a smaller incision, patients who received the minimally invasive procedure, called laparoscopically assisted colectomy, also required one less day in the hospital, one less day on intravenous pain killers and one less day on oral pain killers.

The team cautions, though, that the procedure is only safe and effective if stringent surgical standards are followed.

"When we started this study we were concerned that the procedure itself could help the cancer spread, so we wanted to make sure it wasn't going to result in a bad outcome for our patients," says James W. Fleshman Jr., M.D., professor of surgery at the School of Medicine. "We found that, in the hands of an experienced surgeon, laparoscopically assisted colectomy is indeed an acceptable alternative for treating colon cancer. Now we have the task of defining who is an 'experienced surgeon.'"

Fleshman was a key contributor to the study, which was led by the Mayo Clinic. The results will be presented May 12 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons in Dallas and will be published in the May 13 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

About 100,000 Americans are diagnosed with colon cancer each year, and more than 90 percent of them require surgery. Typically, surgeons open the abdomen with a six-to-eight-inch incision and then cut away the portion of the colon containing cancer. During laparoscopically assisted colectomy, the same procedure is performed through three one-half-inch incisions and one two-inch incision.

The minimally invasive vers
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Contact: Gila Z. Reckess
reckessg@wustl.edu
314-286-0109
Washington University School of Medicine
12-May-2004


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