Why You Should Travel to UPMC for Colon and Rectal Surgery

If you have colorectal cancer or another condition that needs colorectal surgery, finding the right care is key. This can mean traveling long distances.

The UPMC Division of Colon and Rectal Surgery, headquartered in Pittsburgh, treats patients from all over the world. We offer all patients with colorectal conditions an individualized, multidisciplinary care approach. Our care teams, including our nationally accredited rectal cancer program, have decades of experience treating colon and rectum disorders.

For patients traveling to UPMC from out of state, we make the process convenient. That includes offering preoperative and postoperative services via telemedicine to reduce travel before and after your procedure.

“This is a really good time for colorectal surgery,” says David S. Medich, MD, chief of the UPMC Division of Colon and Rectal Surgery. “We’re doing things that are improving the quality of life of our patients better than at any time in our existence.”

Learn more about UPMC’s approach to colorectal surgery and why it’s important to seek out expert care.

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The Importance of Expert Colorectal Surgical Care

Millions of Americans suffer from colorectal cancer and other colorectal conditions. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer among men and women, according to the American Cancer Society. Getting the right treatment for colorectal conditions can affect your short-term survival and your long-term quality of life.

“Achieving the best outcome is not just the short term of, ‘How are you a week after surgery or a month after surgery?'” Dr. Medich says.

“We look at them through the prism of, these are long-term quality of life issues. So that a 25- or 35- or 40- or 50-year-old patient has many decades on the planet left. And so, decisions made in 2023 impact our quality of life in 2043.”

Treatment for colorectal conditions has made great advances in recent years, Dr. Medich says. But it’s important to seek out a center that treats each case on an individual basis, he says.

One example is with rectal cancer. In the past, removing and replacing the patient’s rectum with a permanent colostomy was common practice. These patients would need a colostomy bag for the rest of their lives.

But for some patients, immediate removal wasn’t necessary. So instead, in recent years, UPMC and other expert centers have taken a “wait and see” approach with some patients.

“The way we treat rectal cancer now compared to the way we did 10, 20, and 30 years ago is so different and so much better,” Dr. Medich says. “The problem is that most centers in the country do not practice this selective or individualized care of their cancer patients. They’ll follow the national guidelines.

“But every patient has their own story. Every human being is slightly different, and when you could take the combined knowledge of a lot of committed folks, we could figure out ways to keep their quality of life as close to normal as possible.”

The UPMC Division of Colon and Rectal Surgery takes the same individualized approach with all patients, Dr. Medich adds.

Why Travel to UPMC for Colon and Rectal Surgery?

The UPMC Division of Colon and Rectal Surgery provides world-class care for colorectal cancers and other conditions. For patients from out of state, we work to create a convenient process that incorporates telemedicine. That way, you can get the care you need, when you need it, without needing to make several long trips.

Telemedicine is available throughout the entire care process — from getting a second opinion, to preoperative work, to post-op visits. It includes visits with your surgeon, anesthesiologist, and more.

Some patients, such as those with rectal cancer, may need to make a pre-op trip for an examination. But most patients will not need to travel to Pittsburgh until the date of their surgery.

“The great majority of these patients do not have to make that three-, four-, or seven-hour one-way drive,” Dr. Medich says. “For most patients, we should be able to manage that so that we could see them on the day of surgery and not burden them with extra time, money, and inconvenience.”

Traveling patients also can access all that the UPMC Division of Colon and Rectal Surgery has to offer. That includes:

  • Care for a wide spectrum of colorectal conditions. The conditions we treat include cancer, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and a wide variety of other disorders.
  • Clinical expertise. Our surgeons, nurses, and other members of our care team have years of experience treating colorectal conditions. “To care for these patients requires a village,” Dr. Medich says. “And by years of experience, there are no surprises anymore. Think about your own family. We treat these people that come to us as strangers how you want your family members to be treated.”
  • A full range of treatment options. We provide advanced treatment options for whatever you may need. Procedures range from more complex operations to laparoscopic approaches to robotic or minimally invasive procedures. The type of procedure depends on your specific case. “The full gamut of colorectal surgery and the diseases that we manage requires not just a technical skill. That’s a prerequisite,” Dr. Medich says. “But the art of surgery is doing the right operation on the right patient at the right time.” That includes the watch-and-wait approach for patients with rectal cancer, potentially preserving their rectums.
  • Individualized care. Every patient is different, and every case is different. We’ll work with you to develop the best treatment path for your goals. “You have to make it specific to the individual needs of that human being in front of you,” Dr. Medich says.
  • A multidisciplinary approach. Your care team includes not only your surgeon but specialists from a wide variety of disciplines. Our teams collaborate and consult with each other to ensure you’re getting the care you need.

The UPMC Division of Colon and Rectal Surgery also takes a personal approach to care. That includes helping patients make other medical appointments they may need before their procedure.

“If you come and see us and you need a CAT scan, or you need blood work, or you need an MRI or appointments with other docs, we make those appointments for you,” says Kim Sainiak, MSN, executive nurse leader for the UPMC Division of Colon and Rectal Surgery. “You walk away with appointments and directions there.”

That personal touch extends beyond the procedure itself. Dr. Medich says that after a patient’s procedure, he walks them through the operation and what to expect afterward. He asks families to record these conversations on video so they can reference them later.

People are the core of what the division does, Dr. Medich says.

“There’s nothing that we’re doing that other people aren’t doing somewhere. It’s just how you do it and your degree of intensity of how you do it,” he says. “This is not just ‘Patient A.’ It’s personal. When you make it personal, the level of care goes up.”

For more information about the UPMC Division of Colon and Rectal Surgery, or to schedule an appointment, call 877-684-7189 or visit our website.

About UPMC

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.