What to Know in Each Stage of Colon Cancer
Colon cancer is often referred to as a silent disease, as many individuals do not experience symptoms in the early stages of the condition. According to Colon Cancer Alliance, colon cancer is the second-most common type of cancer diagnosis and the second leading cause of death in both women and men in the United States. However, early detection of the condition allows for prompt treatment and, in many cases, full recovery from the disease. Colon cancer presents in five stages, with the first two stages being the easiest to treat. Understanding the stages of colon cancer can help individuals who have been diagnosed with the disease in making informed decisions regarding their treatment options and recovery plans.
Stage 0 colon cancer occurs when abnormal cells or polyps are detected on the inner lining of the colon and have not spread to surrounding organs or tissues. Since these cells have the potential to spread, removal is typically recommended. If polyps containing abnormal cells have developed, the polyps are surgically removed. If cells are detected on the lining of the colon, the tissue is removed via biopsy. In most cases, removal of the abnormal tissues is the only treatment required.
Stage I colon cancer is diagnosed when cancerous polyps or cancerous cells are detected in the colon wall mucosa and the underlying tissues that lie directly beneath the mucosa. In certain cases of stage I colon cancer, the malignancy may also spread to the layer of muscle in the wall of the colon. If the cancer is only detected in a polyp, removal of the polyp may be the only treatment required. If cancer is detected outside of a polyp, treatment may include removal of the affected tissues and surrounding lymph nodes.
When colon cancer is detected in its second phase, cancer cells have most often made their way through the tissues of the colon wall. In certain cases, the cancer cells may also spread to surrounding tissues. Stage II colon cancers are commonly treated with surgical removal of the cancerous colon tissues, along with the nearby lymph nodes. While this treatment alone may be enough to eradicate the cancer, patients may still be advised to undergo chemotherapy treatments to prevent recurrence.
During the third stage of colon cancer, the malignant cells have traveled into the lymph nodes but have not yet traveled to additional body parts. Patients with stage III colon cancer are typically treated with surgical removal of the cancerous tissue and nearby lymph nodes, followed by chemotherapy treatments. Radiation may also be recommended to ensure complete eradication of cancer cells.
Stage IV is the most severe form of colon cancer. It is diagnosed when the cancerous cells have traveled from the colon into the organs, such as the liver or lungs, as well as lymph nodes located in other areas of the body. Treatment for Stage IV colon cancer depends on the extent of the condition. For instance, if the tumors are too large or too widespread for adequate removal, patients may be treated with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation.
While colon cancer can be life-threatening in its late stages, the disease can also be completely cured when caught in its early or middle stages. Scheduling regular colon cancer screenings can help to ensure prompt detection and proper treatment.