Colon cancer develops in stages. Depending on what stage the cancer is at will determine the type of treatment you will receive. Once tested and diagnosed, the doctor will know what stage it is at.
Stages of Colon Cancer
While it is considered the 4 stages it begins at zero.
This is the earliest stage of colon cancer. The discovery of polyps, or abnormal cells is found in the inside lining of the rectum or colon. These polyps have not yet spread to other parts of the body and may or may not be cancerous.
In this stage, the cells have attached themselves to the walls of the intestine. They have moved through the mucosa (the inner lining) and into the submucosa. There may be a chance they have entered the muscle. But there is no evidence the cancer has spread to lymph nodes or other organs.
The next stage of colon cancer is more dire and can be divided into 3 other categories.
Stage 2A means it has moved to the outermost layer of the colon or rectum, but has not grown through it. It has not reached nearby organs or lymph nodes, and has not spread to other, more distant organs.
Stage 2B means that the cancer has grown through all the layers of the colon or rectum, but has not yet spread to the lymph nodes or other organs.
Stage 2C indicates that the cancer has now grown through all the layers of the intestine but has also grown into nearby organs or tissues. It also means that it has not spread to the lymph nodes or other distant organs.
Stage 3 colon cancer is also divided into 3 sub categories.
The first stage of stage 3 has the cancer spread into at least 3 lymph nodes and possibly the muscles.
The second category of stage 3 will mean the cancer has grown into or through the outermost layer of the colon or rectum and may have also spread into nearby organs or other tissues. It has not yet spread to distant organs.
When colon cancer is determined at the third stage of stage three, the cancer has now spread into the next closest organs.
Stage 4 colon cancer is also called advanced colon cancer. It means the cancer has now reached other organs like the lungs or liver.
There are several ways this cancer can metastasize. It may or may affect the lymph nodes, and it doesn’t always grow through the wall of the colon or rectum.
There are different categories for advanced colon cancer. It will depend on how many organs it has reached and whether it is in the lymph nodes or just the original tumor.
Treatment for Advanced Colon Cancer
Treating a patient with advanced colon cancer will depend on several other factors. Age, medical condition, overall health, medications the patient is taking and the potential side effects and risks involved.
Depending on how many organs are affected by the cancer, there may be surgery to remove tumors, organs and surrounding tissue. The lymph nodes may also be removed, damaged and healthy parts of the colon and rectum.
It may result in the patient also having to have a colonoscopy. This is a small opening done surgically so the colon can be connected to the abdominal surface.
This will provide a pathway for waste to exit the body. This waste is collected in a pouch worn by the patient. It may be temporary, it may be permanent. It will depend on the individual and their own situation.
Aftercare can include chemo or radiation therapy or medications. The recovery will depend on when the cancer was found and the patient’s health and age.
In many cases, the patients may move to palliative care. This will help the patient cope with the effects of colon cancer. This can be at home, in the hospital or a long-term care facility. It is meant to improve the quality of life.
It does not always mean end-of-life care, however advanced colon cancer survival rate is not promising. Once it has reached the other vital organs, it lowers the life expectancy considerably.
If you have a history of cancer in your family, if you have a sedentary lifestyle, are overweight, smoke or have type 2 diabetes, you should consider getting screened before the recommended age.
Talk to your healthcare provider about the variety of tests available and take charge of your health. It is difficult to recover once your colon cancer has reached the advanced stage.
Testing and taking control of your own health is the best way to prevent all types of illnesses and diseases that are otherwise preventable. Cancer is not always preventable, but there is no need to invite it in.