Many people face the dilemma whether to be screened or not to be screened for colon cancer. For some, it is a difficult decision but let’s look at the scenarios. For those who choose to be screened and have a colonoscopy, on average pre-cancerous cells or cancer can be detected at the early stages, while it is treatable and even curable. For those who chose to not be screened, these colon cancer patients end up with symptoms that are indicative of more progressive or late stage cancer, and they are facing longer odds during treatment.
This makes colonoscopies and similar screening tests vital in the field of colon cancer prevention.
Signs of Colon Cancer
One of the early signs of colorectal cancer might be bleeding. However, tumors often bleed only small amounts, off and on, so that evidence of the blood is found only during chemical testing of the stool, which is called a fecal occult blood test. When tumors have grown larger, other signs and symptoms might develop. These include:
- Change in bowel habits
- Blood on or in the stool
- Unexplained anemia
- Unusual abdominal pain or bloating
- Unexplained weight loss
If you experience any of these signs or symptoms, it is important to see your doctor for evaluation. For a patient with colorectal cancer, early diagnosis and treatment can be life saving.
What are the Stages of Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer is described clinically by the stages in which it is discovered. The various stages of a colorectal cancer are determined by the depth of invasion through the wall of the intestine; the involvement of the lymph nodes (the drainage nodules); and the spread to other organs. Listed below is a description of the stages of colorectal cancer and their treatment.
- Stage 0: Also known as carcinoma in situ, the disease remains within the lining of the colon or rectum. Therefore, removal of the cancer is either by polypectomy via colonoscopy or by surgery if the lesion is too large.
- Stage 1: The cancer has grown through several layers of the intestine, but has not spread beyond the muscular coat of the colon or rectum. The standard treatment of a stage I colon cancer is a colon resection alone.
- Stage 2: At this stage the cancer has grown into the outermost layers of the colon or rectum (stage 2A), penetrated through the walls of the colon or rectum (stage 2A) and even spread into adjacent tissue (stage 2C). However, it has not yet reached the lymph nodes. Usually the only treatment for this stage of colon cancer is a surgical resection. Since some stage 2 colon cancers have a tendency to recur, a patient may additionally be treated with chemotherapy or radiation after surgery.
- Stage 3: A stage 3 colorectal cancer is considered an advanced stage of cancer as the disease has spread to the lymph nodes, but not to other parts or organs in the body. At stage 3A the cancer has grown through the mucosa into the submucosa; at 3B has invaded the outermost layers of the colon or rectum; and at 3C has penetrated through the wall of the colon or rectum. Most often surgery is done first, followed by chemotherapy and radiation.
- Stage 4: For patients with stage 4 colorectal cancer, the disease has spread (metastasized) to other organs such as the liver, lungs, or ovaries. When cancer reaches this stage, surgery is generally aimed at relieving or preventing complications as opposed to curing the patient of the disease. Occasionally the cancer’s spread is restricted enough to where it can all be removed by surgery or, in the case of minimal disease in the liver, treated with radiofrequency ablation (destruction by a painless energy wave source), cryotherapy (destruction by freezing), or intra-arterial chemotherapy. For stage 4 cancer that cannot be surgically removed, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or both may be used to relieve, delay, or prevent symptoms.
The Importance of Early Detection
The truth is: The sooner you undergo cancer screening, the sooner you can identify cancer during the earlier stages. By getting a colonoscopy as scheduled, changes in the colon and rectum can be detected before the cancer spreads to vital areas such as the lymph nodes or organs. According to the American Cancer Society, here are the colon cancer survival rates by stage:
Survival Rates For Colon Cancer Stages
|Stage||5-year Survival Rate|
*In this study, survival was better for some stage III cancers than for some stage II cancers. The reasons for this are not clear.
The statistics show that early detection does make a difference! Not only can individuals be treated in the earlier stages, but they can also be cured – all due to a routine colonoscopy and/or other cancer screening methods.
Contact the Colonoscopy Center of Excellence in Los Angeles
To schedule an appointment with some of the best doctors in Los Angeles, contact the Colonoscopy Center of Excellence at (888) 837-0459.
Learn more about colon cancer prevention.