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Discharge Instructions for Cancer of the Colon and Rectum

You have been diagnosed with cancer of the colon and rectum (also called colorectal cancer). This is the abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells in the colon and rectum. The surgical removal of part or all of the colon (colectomy) is the primary treatment for colorectal cancer. How much of your colon the surgeon removes depends on the location of the tumor. Your doctor may recommend additional therapies, such as radiation or chemotherapy. This sheet will help you remember how to care for yourself after surgery.


  • Don’t lift anything heavier than 5 pounds or use a vacuum cleaner until your doctor says it’s okay.

  • Don’t drive until your doctor says it’s okay.

  • If you ride in a car for more than short trips, stop frequently to stretch your legs.

  • Ask your doctor when you can return to work. This should be within 6 to 8 weeks after surgery, depending on the kind of work you do.

  • Slowly Increase your activity over time. Take short walks on a level surface.

Home Care

  • If you have a stoma, take care of it as directed. Your doctor and nurse showed you how to do this before you left the hospital. Ask for an instruction sheet about colostomy care if you did not already receive one.

  • Shower as needed. Ask a friend or family member to stand close by in case you need help.

  • Wash your incision site with soap and water and pat dry.

  • Check your incision every day for redness, drainage, swelling, or separation of the skin.

  • Take your medications exactly as directed.

  • Don’t take any over-the-counter medication, supplements, or herbal remedies unless your doctor says it’s okay.


Make a follow-up appointment as directed by our staff.


When to Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor right away if you have any of the following:

  • Excessive bleeding from your stoma

  • Blood in your stool, hard stool, or no gas or stool

  • Change in the color of your stoma

  • Bulging skin around your stoma or the stoma

    appears to be getting longer

  • Fever above 101.5°F or shaking chills

  • Redness, swelling, bleeding, or drainage from your incision

  • Constipation or diarrhea

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Increased pain



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