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. Surgery to remove part or all of the colon (colectomy) is the main treatment for most colorectal cancers. How much of your colon or rectum the surgeon removed depends on where the tumor was growing. Your healthcare provider may also advise additional treatment. This may include radiation or chemotherapy. This sheet will help you care for yourself after surgery.

Always follow all instructions you get from your healthcare providers. Contact them if you have any questions. 


Do's and don'ts include: 

  • Don’t lift anything heavier than 5 pounds or push 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 long 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. This depends on the kind of work you do.

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

Home care

Once you are home: 

  • 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 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 gently with soap and water. Pat dry and do not rub.

  • Check your incision every day. Look for redness, fluid leaking, swelling, or edges of the skin pulling apart.

  • Take your medicines exactly as directed.

  • Don’t take any other medicine, vitamins, or herbs 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:

  • A lot of bleeding from your stoma

  • Blood in your stool

  • Hard stool

  • 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 of100.4°F (38°C) or higher

  • Redness, swelling, bleeding, or fluid leaking from your incision

  • Constipation or diarrhea

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Pain that gets worse