Bowel cancer patients can avoid using colostomy bags with stent

CHICAGO • Bowel cancer patients can be spared the use of a colostomy bag to collect their faeces through the insertion of an expandable tube to bypass their blocked intestines, say cancer doctors.

The new approach also cuts the risk of complications during emergency bowel cancer surgery for patients whose intestines are blocked by a tumour, reported the BBC.

People suffering from bowel cancer are often unaware of the disease until the tumour blocks their intestine, necessitating emergency surgery. This unplanned surgery carries a much higher risk of complications compared with routine surgery. The death rate rises from 2 per cent for planned surgery to 12 per cent in the case of emergency bowel surgery.

If the bowels cannot be put back together, a colostomy bag becomes essential. Experts say the bags often frighten patients.

The new method was tested on 250 patients by Cancer Research UK, with half of them undergoing the novel procedure to unblock their bowels. Surgeons used an endoscope to find the precise location of the blockage and then inserted the expandable tube, or stent.

The expandable tube is just 3mm in diameter when inserted, but expands over 48 hours in response to body heat until it reaches 2.5cm in diameter, creating a new passageway through the intestines. The tumour is then removed once the bowels have healed and the patient has recovered from the blockage.

There is no difference in survival rates between the methods. But the need for a colostomy bag fell to 45 per cent of patients through the new method, compared with 69 per cent of the patients who needed a bag to rid their bodies of faeces after conventional surgery.

The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (Asco), reported the BBC.

Meanwhile, a separate study shows that using a patient's individual tumour biomarkers to determine the best cancer treatment can improve success rates, reported Agence France-Presse.

Based on the "encouraging" preliminary results of clinical trials on patients with various types of advanced cancer, the study - also unveiled at the Asco meeting - said that unlike chemotherapy and radiation therapy, targeted medicine lets patients preserve healthy cells.

But "targeted drugs in and of themselves were not effective. They absolutely need to be given to the right patients", said lead study author Maria Schwaederle, an expert on personalised cancer therapy at the University of California, San Diego.

"A biomarker-based approach was the most significant independent predictor of improved outcomes," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 06, 2016, with the headline 'Bowel cancer patients can avoid using colostomy bags with stent'. Print Edition | Subscribe