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Like any type of operation, surgery for small intestine cancer has certain risks. Some complications can occur during the operation itself, while others can develop during the recovery process. However, choosing a highly experienced surgeon can help reduce these risks and increase the likelihood of achieving the best possible outcome and quality of life.

In general, straightforward surgical procedures tend to have fewer risks than more complex surgeries. For instance, a simple polypectomy is less likely to cause complications than a combined total colectomy and proctolectomy. Minimally invasive procedures also tend to have lower complication rates than open abdominal procedures.

Potential complications of gastrointestinal surgery

The most common risks of small intestine cancer surgery are bleeding, scarring and infection. Other, less common complications include:

  • Negative reactions to anesthesia
  • Blood clots
  • Damage to surrounding organs
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Digestive difficulties, including diarrhea and constipation
  • Problems absorbing nutrients from food

When all or a large portion of the small intestine is removed, the bowels may need to be rerouted through an opening in the abdomen. In this situation, bodily waste can be collected on a temporary or permanent basis in a small, external pouch called a stoma bag. If the abdominal opening is not properly cared for, additional complications such as infection or leakage can occur.

Recovering from small intestine surgery

Most patients spend several days in a hospital after surgery for small intestine cancer. This allows the treatment team to monitor for any immediate complications and prepare for the at-home recovery process. During this time, supportive care specialists can provide instructions on how to manage any residual pain at the incision site, how to care for a stoma (if applicable) and which side effects should be immediately reported to a physician.

At Moffitt Cancer Center, we’re committed to providing our patients with the individualized guidance and support they need before, during and after treatment. If you’d like to learn more about your options for small intestine cancer surgery, you can call 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online to request an appointment. You do not need a referral to meet with an oncologist in our specialized Gastrointestinal Oncology Program.