Minimally invasive surgical procedure offers limited benefits for colon cancer patients

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Researchers conclude that this procedure should still be considered experimental

A national clinical trial compared the effects of standard colon cancer surgery with a newer, minimally invasive procedure for removing tumors called laparoscopic surgery. Researchers from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Mayo Clinic and their colleagues found that compared with patients who had the standard operation, those who had the minimally invasive surgery were able to leave the hospital about a day earlier, on average, and required less pain medication while hospitalized. However, their levels of pain and quality of life immediately following surgery and two months thereafter were the same as those who had the standard operation. This finding surprised the researchers, who expected the minimally invasive procedure to have clear benefits. “Although we did see modest advantages for laparoscopic surgery, these findings need to be considered in context,” explained researcher Jane Weeks, of Dana-Farber and Harvard Medical School. “The goal of colon cancer surgery is to cure the cancer. Until the longer term results of this study are available in a few years, and we know whether laparoscopic surgery is as effective as the standard operation in controlling the cancer, we believe that it should be viewed as experimental and offered only as part of a clinical trial.”