Speeding Up Your Recovery From Colon Cancer Surgery: Johns Hopkins Health Alerts Offers Latest Advice

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Colon cancer is the #2 cause of cancer-related death amongst BOTH men and women in the United States. Yet this cancer is highly treatable if detected early. Johns Hopkins Health Alerts offers the latest research on one effective method for speeding up your recovery time after colon cancer surgery.

Johns Hopkins Colon Cancer Health Alerts (http://www.johnshopkinshealthalerts.com)] has just released an article on new research regarding faster recovery time after colon cancer surgery.

The American Cancer Society ranks colorectal cancer -- a term that includes cancers of both the colon and the rectum -- as the #3 cause of cancer overall in the United States (and the #2 leading cause of cancer-related deaths among men and women).

Yet colon cancer is one of the most preventable cancers, thanks to what we now know about effective colon cancer prevention. It is also one of the most curable of all cancers if you detect it and treat in its early stages. The five-year survival rate for colon cancer when it is discovered and treated in the early stages is over 90%.

The first line of treatment for colon cancer is to remove the primary tumor or tumors. If your colon cancer is confined to polyps or a small area, surgery is probably the only treatment that you need.

After major surgery, you will have some pain for two or three days, which is relieved with morphine or other pain medication. You will not be able to eat and will be given intravenous fluids.

After a few days, you should be able to eat, and bowel function will resume, although it may take a few days to return to normal function. A typical hospital stay for colorectal surgery is between four and eight days, and full recovery takes about two months.

Now a report in the Archives of Surgery (Volume 141, page 174) suggests that chewing sugarless gum after colorectal surgery may help patients to get up and go, shortening hospital stays by one-third.

After colon cancer surgery, most patients don't want food or water, and it takes a few days for bowel function to resume. If the intestinal shutdown lasts much longer, it can lead to longer hospital stays that may expose patients to infection and other complications.

Chewing gum triggers the same reflex as eating, stimulating gastrointestinal hormones connected with bowel activity.

The study looked at 34 people who had part of their sigmoid colon removed because of colon cancer or diverticulitis. Half chewed one stick of sugarless gum for about an hour three times a day, starting the morning after colon cancer surgery. The rest were treated as usual.

In the chewing-gum group, the time to producing intestinal gas was reduced by 14.8 hours, to feeling hungry by 9.3 hours, and to the first bowel movement by more than a day.

(These are some of the common benchmarks by which hospitals judge recovery from colon surgery, and part of the basis for the decision as to whether or not the patient is able to go home.)

The total hospital stay for the gum group was 59.8 hours shorter than the control group, with discharge in 4.3 days instead of 6.8.

Researchers noted that hospitals cost an average of $1,500 a day. Sugarless gum costs 4 cents per stick.

For the latest Health Alerts on colon cancer prevention, detection and treatment, please visit:
Johns Hopkins Colon Cancer Health Alerts

For the annual review of the latest research and findings on Colon Cancer, please visit The Johns Hopkins White Papers: Colon Cancer
Johns Hopkins White Paper: Colon Cancer

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