Bowel cancer patients may avoid the need for colostomy bags if they are first treated by having an expandable tube inserted at the site of their blockage, cancer doctors have said.
The new approach, presented at the world’s biggest cancer conference, showed that the tube, or stent, cut the risk of complications from surgery.
Experts said colostomy bags, to collect faeces, often frightened patients. Globally, nearly 1.4 million cases of bowel cancer are diagnosed each year.
In the UK, more than a fifth of the cancers go undetected until the tumour blocks the intestines, leaving patients needing emergency surgery. This unplanned surgery has a much higher risk of complications compared with routine surgery. The patient is often in worse health, the swelling caused by the blockage can mean keyhole surgery is not possible so more invasive surgery is needed and there may not be a colorectal specialist surgeon on hand.
The death rate goes up from 2% for planned surgery to 12% in emergency bowel cancer surgery.
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