January 28, 2011

No date for surgery yet, but colons are cool

While we wait for a date for my surgery, let's get inside my colon.

The colon is the last part of your digestive system, where water is absorbed from poo and where bacteria help to break down some last minute materials.

Deliberately confusing sentence: The colon is called the large intestine because its diameter is larger compared to the small intestine but it is smaller in length than the small intestine. Why weren't they just named the long and short intestine?

Colons are like roller coasters for poo. The colon goes up, across,  down, does a few bends, and then stops to let the cargo off.

1: Ascending colon 2: Transverse colon 3: Descending colon 4: Sigmoid colon 5: Rectum

This image is loaded with analogy
My tumour is in the bendy bit (in section 4) - the bit that's supposed to be the most fun on a roller coaster. About 30% of colorectal cancers are found in the bendy bit. That's not fun.

The colon is long - about 1.5 m in the average person, but I'm not average (Mum says I'm 'special' all the time) and so mine should be longer because of my height, right? Nope. The length of your colon is not related to height, but is instead related to how much you weigh and your gender.

Male colons are longer than female ones, and heavier people have longer ones than lighter people. But measuring a colon is hard - surprisingly hard. In the olden days they used to force thin tubes down people's throats to measure the length of the whole digestive system, but the results from this method were all over the place because, as you can imagine, sticking a 5 m object down your throat isn't natural and changes the shape of the intestines. They now measure this stuff on dead people that have donated their bodies to science, but bodies change when they die and so this way can also be inaccurate.

For pub trivia purposes, just remember that the colon is about 1.5 m long.

I was sad to learn that mine was not bigger than his


  1. love the colon diagram. can you put that on some t-shirts? I'd totally wear it. or, option #2: a "ben had his sigmoid colon resectioned and all I got was this lousy shirt" shirt. at the very least, it would raise awareness for colon cancer.

    when you've got time, can you explain the laparascopic procedure some more? that video was really interesting, but I'm wondering what gizmos they use to snake around the colon and make cuts. are the surgeons operating a computerized glove or a joystick?

    hope all the tests went smoothly today.


  2. Hey TsaiTsai,

    That shirt is a fantastic idea! Tim and I will definitely look into making these when I get back to China.

    I am currently reading up about the surgery and will post something about it soon.

    Say hi to Ed for me,


  3. "Colons are like roller coasters for poo" really is one of the greatest sentences I've ever read.