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Deciding Between Surgery and Medicines for Ulcerative Colitis

How can you decide between surgery and medicines for ulcerative colitis?

What is ulcerative colitis?

Ulcerative colitis is a disease that causes parts of the digestive tract to swell and form deep sores. These sores are called ulcers. The disease can affect the colon and the rectum. It can cause belly pain and diarrhea.

In many cases, medicines may ease swelling and control symptoms. But sometimes they don't work. Surgery to take out the colon can cure the disease.

This information will help you decide between having surgery and using medicines.

What are key points about this decision?

  • Most people who have mild colitis can control their symptoms with medicine. In most cases, surgery is not done when the disease is mild.
  • The only cure for ulcerative colitis is surgery. The colon and the lining of the rectum are taken out. After the most common type of surgery, you will still be able to have bowel movements. After the less common type of surgery, you will wear an ostomy bag to remove body waste.
  • You are more likely to get colon cancer if you have had ulcerative colitis for 8 years or longer. Surgery removes the risk of colon cancer.
  • In most cases, surgery works well. But it does have risks. Your small intestine could get blocked. Or you might leak stool.

Why might you choose surgery?

  • You have severe symptoms that medicines do not control.
  • Surgery cures ulcerative colitis.
  • You are worried about colon cancer. Surgery prevents colon cancer. And it can cure it if the cancer has not spread beyond the colon.
  • You don't want to take medicine for the rest of your life.

Why might you choose medicine?

  • Your symptoms don't bother you very often or very much.
  • You don't mind trying different types of medicines until you find one that works for you.
  • You understand the side effects of the medicines. You feel that you can deal with them.
  • You worry about the risks of surgery.

Your decision

Thinking about the facts and your feelings can help you make a decision that is right for you. Be sure you understand the benefits and risks of your options, and think about what else you need to do before you make the decision.

Where can you learn more?

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