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Discharge Instructions for Surgery 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 most colorectal cancers. How much of your colon or rectum the surgeon removes depends on the location of the tumor. Your healthcare provider may recommend additional therapies, such as radiation or chemotherapy. This sheet will help you remember how to care for yourself after surgery.

Always follow any specific instructions you get from your healthcare providers, and contact them if you have any questions. 


Do's and don'ts include: 

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

  • Don’t drive until your healthcare provider says it’s OK.

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

  • Ask your healthcare provider 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

Suggestions for taking care once you are home include: 

  • If you have a stoma (colostomy or ileostomy), take care of it as directed. Your healthcare providers 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 (cut) site with soap and water and pat dry.

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

  • Take your medicines exactly as directed.

  • Don’t take any over-the-counter medicine, supplements, or herbal remedies unless your healthcare provider says it’s OK.


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


When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider 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 100.4°F (38°C) or shaking chills

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

  • Constipation or diarrhea

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Increased pain


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