OCT 27, 2020 12:02 PM PDT

Increased muscle mass improves outcomes for colorectal cancer surgery

New research published in JAMA Surgery reports a new way to prepare for surgery: sit-ups. According to the findings from a team of scientists at the University of Alberta, low muscle quality and quantity are associated with poor outcomes in colon resection surgery. The scientists say that preoperatively enhancing muscle mass could in fact reduce recovery time following surgery.

Carla Prado is a researcher at the University of Alberta's Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences. In this study, Prado and her colleagues assessed colon cancer patients’ muscle radiodensity prior to surgery. Using CT scans, they analyzed the quality of muscle for 1,630 patients who received a diagnosis of Stage I to Stage III colon cancer. It’s important to note that the quality of muscle is different from muscle mass, explains Prado.

"It's like you're looking at a steak and you have fat inside the steak. Our muscles can be like that too, and that's not good for us--so our study looked at both the mass (the quantity) and also the quality of the muscles, which is the amount of fat infiltration," said Prado.

The researchers looked at several additional factors, including the length of hospital stay, need for readmission and mortality in patients with colon cancer following colon resection surgery. Their findings showed that low muscle mass was linked to greater post-operative complications, hospitalization and mortality.

Photo: Pixabay

This finding has significant implications for targeted patient interventions. "It is possible to preoperatively improve muscle, and through that intervention, we can better people's quality of life,” says Prado. “So, I think exploring ways that we can successfully use this approach is the way of the future.”

The Canadian Cancer Society estimates that colorectal cancer will be the second-leading cause of death from cancer in Canadian men and the third-leading cause of death from cancer in women in 2020.

Sources: JAMA Surgery, Eureka Alert

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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