What Is Colon Or Rectal Cancer
Cancer that starts in the colon or rectum is often called colorectal cancer. It might also be called colon cancer or rectal cancer. It starts when cells in the colon or rectum grow out of control and crowd out normal cells.
Cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body. Cancer cells from the colon or rectum can sometimes travel to the liver and grow there. When cancer cells do this, its called metastasis. The cancer cells in the new place look just like the ones that started growing in the colon or rectum.
Cancer is always named for the place where it starts. So when colorectal cancer spreads to the liver , its still called colorectal cancer. Its not called liver cancer unless it starts from cells in the liver.
Ask your doctor to show you on this picture where your cancer is found.
How To Deal With Stage 4 Colon Cancer
Oliver Eng, MD, is a double board-certified surgeon and surgical oncologist and an Assistant Professor of Surgery at the University of Chicago.
How can you best cope when you learn you have stage 4 colon cancer? What decisions will you need to make and what do you need to know to make the best choices for yourself personally?
Let’s look at what having stage 4 colon cancer means, how long people usually live with this stage of the disease, and what you need to know to make the best decisions possible.
Stage 1 Colon Cancer Has A Very Good Prognosis And Stage 4 Is Pretty Much A Death Sentence
How long does it take to go from stage 1 to stage 4?
The process of advancing from polyps to cancer can take many years, says Dr. Neil Sengupta, MD, a general gastroenterologist and assistant professor at the University of Chicago, and GI Research Foundation Scholars Award Recipient.
Once a polyp has turned into early stage cancer, it can also be several years before the cancer advances further into stage 4 or metastatic disease, continues Dr. Sengupta.
However, there are certain medical conditions such as Lynch syndrome , where the process can be accelerated significantly.
Typically speaking, colon cancer screening can prevent colon cancer by removing polyps before they turn into early colon cancer.
In addition, colonoscopy can detect cancers early and more amenable to curative treatment.
So why do about 140,000 U.S. people get diagnosed with this disease every year? And why do about 40,000 die from it?
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Problems With Blood And Blood Vessels
Cancers that push into blood vessels can cause serious damage. In the brain, this can lead to a stroke.
Cancer that affects bone marrow can interfere with the production of:
- red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body
- platelets, which are needed to stop bleeding
- white blood cells, which are needed to fight infection
Can Colon Cancer Kill You
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When Do You Need To Get Screened And How Often
One of the deadliest cancers can be prevented or detected at a curable stage if you follow recommended screening guidelines.
Colon cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society . The good news is that the death rate has steadily dropped over the past several decades among older adults.
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- Prepare for a doctor’s visit or test
- Find the best treatments and procedures for you
- Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Types Of Colorectal Cancer
Colorectal cancers are classified into 3 types based on the affected part.
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What About Other Treatments That I Hear About
When you have cancer you might hear about other ways to treat the cancer or treat your symptoms. These may not always be standard medical treatments. These treatments may include vitamins, herbs, diets, and other things. You may wonder if these treatments are safe and whether they could help you.
Some of these treatments are known to help, but many have not been tested. Some have been shown not to help. A few have even been found to be harmful. Talk to your doctor about anything youre thinking about using, whether its a vitamin, a diet, or anything else.
Treating Stage Ii Colon Cancer
Many stage II colon cancers have grown through the wall of the colon, and maybe into nearby tissue, but they have not spread to the lymph nodes.
Surgery to remove the section of the colon containing the cancer along with nearby lymph nodes may be the only treatment needed. But your doctor may recommend adjuvant chemotherapy if your cancer has a higher risk of coming back because of certain factors, such as:
- The cancer looks very abnormal when viewed closely in the lab.
- The cancer has grown into nearby blood or lymph vessels.
- The surgeon did not remove at least 12 lymph nodes.
- Cancer was found in or near the margin of the removed tissue, meaning that some cancer may have been left behind.
- The cancer had blocked the colon.
- The cancer caused a perforation in the wall of the colon.
The doctor might also test your tumor for specific gene changes, called MSI or MMR, to help decide if adjuvant chemotherapy would be helpful.
Not all doctors agree on when chemo should be used for stage II colon cancers. Its important for you to discuss the risks and benefits of chemo with your doctor, including how much it might reduce your risk of recurrence and what the likely side effects will be.
If chemo is used, the main options include 5-FU and leucovorin, oxaliplatin, or capecitabine, but other combinations may also be used.
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What Will Happen After Treatment
Youll be glad when treatment is over. But its hard not to worry about cancer coming back. Even when cancer never comes back, people still worry about it. For years after treatment ends, you will see your cancer doctor. Be sure to go to all of these follow-up visits. You will have exams, blood tests, and maybe other tests, like a colonoscopy or imaging tests, to see if the cancer has come back.
At first, your visits may be every 3 to 6 months. Then, the longer youre cancer-free, the less often the visits are needed.
Having cancer and dealing with treatment can be hard, but it can also be a time to look at your life in new ways. You might be thinking about how to improve your health. Call us at 1-800-227-2345 or talk to your cancer care team to find out what you can do to feel better.
You cant change the fact that you have cancer. What you can change is how you live the rest of your life making healthy choices and feeling as well as you can.
Prevention Of Colon Cancer
There are two factors which are known to reduce the risk of colon cancer.
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Not All Cancers Cause Death
Firstly, it’s important to remember that not all cancers cause death. Overall, 50 out of every 100 people diagnosed with cancer in England and Wales live for 10 years or more. Cancer survival is improving and has doubled in the last 40 years in the UK.
Cancer at an early stage doesn’t usually kill you. A lot of effort is put into early diagnosis when treatment is likely to work best.
What Types Of Complications From Cancer Can Be Life Threatening
Depending on the organ in which it starts, cancer thats diagnosed and treated in the early stages is usually not life threatening.
Cancer can kill when it invades essential organs, like your liver, lungs, or brain, and stops them from functioning properly.
These complications could be due to primary cancer that starts in an essential organ, such as brain cancer. Or it could be cancer that has metastasized from one area to another. For example, breast cancer that has spread to the lungs.
As cancer spreads throughout the body, it becomes more difficult to control. Some types of cancer tend to spread slowly. Other types spread more aggressively.
Lets take a closer look at some of the complications that cancer can cause.
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Aloe Vera And Apple Cider Vinegar
Aloe vera and apple cider vinegar is mainly used to cleanse the colon and helps in eliminating toxins that could accumulate in your digestive tract. When toxins get accumulated in the digestive tract it can lead to certain diseases.
Aloe vera and apple cider vinegar has anti-inflammatory property. These home remedies also help in maintaining the normal blood sugar levels in your body.
A Gastroenterologist Explains How Long Cancer Of The Colon Can Go Undetected
Cancer can go undetected for many years since it rarely causes any pain or symptoms other than anemia, says John Covington, MD, a gastroenterologist with a private practice in Maryland.
If caught early it is curable. Polyps can sometimes turn into cancer, but they do not cause any symptoms.
You dont know that you have polyps unless the doctor looks inside with a colonoscope. So in order to detect and remove them, colonoscopy is needed every 10 years.
Based on this information, one can deduce that cancer in the colon can go undetected for up to 10 years, meaning, a colonoscopy turns up normal results, and then one a decade later shows a malignant tumor.
But its impossible to tell at what point along the timeline that a polyp, which would have precursed a primary cancer in the colon, began growing, and even more elusive would be at one point it began transforming into a malignancy.
Another point to consider is that a person may begin developing symptoms from a colon cancer, but theres no way to tell how long the disease had been festering inside their gut prior to the development of symptoms.
The precise, absolute answer to How long can colon cancer go undetected, then, remains undetermined.
Dr. Covington provides comprehensive care for digestive tract diseases, offering the latest diagnostic and treatment options including colonoscopy, upper endoscopy and small bowel capsule endoscopy.
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Questions To Ask The Doctor
- Do you know the stage of the cancer?
- If not, how and when will you find out the stage of the cancer?
- Would you explain to me what the stage means in my case?
- Based on the stage of the cancer, how long do you think Ill live?
- What will happen next?
There are many ways to treat colon and rectal cancers:
- Surgery and radiation therapy are mainly used to treat only the cancer. They do not affect the rest of the body.
- Drugs such as chemotherapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy go through the whole body. They can reach cancer cells almost anywhere in the body.
Two or more types of treatment may be used at the same time, or they may be given one after the other. The treatment plan thats best for you will depend on:
- The stage of the cancer
- The chance that a type of treatment will cure the cancer or help in some way
- Other health problems you have
- Your feelings about the treatment and the side effects that may come with it
- The specific genes or proteins your cancer might have
Learning About Your Prognosis
Among the first things you will discuss with your healthcare team is how much information you want about your prognosis. Prognosis refers to the possible course of the disease and how much time you have.
Some people want very specific information regarding how long they might live with stage 4 colon cancer. Other people prefer not to know these details. Even if you want as much information as possible, keep in mind that predicting how long someone will live with stage 4 colon cancer is not exact. Some people live much longer than expected. Others live for a shorter time.
Your healthcare provider may give you a range of time that they expect you will live. This is their best guess, which is based on your particular case.
The most important thing to know is that you can learn as much or as little as you want about your prognosis. It is up to you. Be sure to make what you want to know clear to your healthcare team.
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What Can Lower The Risk Of Complications
With cancer, theres a lot of emphasis on early detection for good reason.
Its easier to treat cancer at an early stage, before it has the chance to spread and cause complications. Thats why its so important to get routine cancer screenings and to discuss any concerns you may have with your doctor.
Treatment for advanced metastatic cancer is targeted at slowing the growth of cancer cells and stopping it from spreading further, as well as symptom management.
Treatment is based on the type of cancer, where it has spread, and what complications have developed.
In most cases, a combination of treatments is needed, which may need to be adjusted from time to time.
Surgery For Colon Cancer
Most people with colon cancer have some type of surgery. The cancer, a small part of normal colon on either side of the cancer, and nearby lymph nodes are often removed. The 2 ends of the colon are then put back together.
For most colon cancers, an opening on the belly to get rid of body waste is not needed, but sometimes one is used for a short time. This opening is called a colostomy. If you need a colostomy for a short time, your doctor or nurse can tell you more about how to take care of it and when it can come out.
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How Cancer Causes Death
Whether or not you will die if you have cancer depends on several factors, like the stage of the cancer. For example, terminal cancer cannot be cured or treated. Its sometimes also called end-stage cancer. Any type of cancer can become terminal cancer, which means that a person will die from it.
Since all the organs in our body connect one way or another, all it takes is for one to begin shutting down, and the rest may start to follow suit. In the end, the person with cancer passes away.
Depending on the type of cancer, the cause of death can vary. Here are some more details on how cancer can cause death.
For Connecting And Sharing During A Cancer Journey
Anyone with cancer, their caregivers, families, and friends, can benefit from help and support. The American Cancer Society offers the Cancer Survivors Network , a safe place to connect with others who share similar interests and experiences. We also partner with CaringBridge, a free online tool that helps people dealing with illnesses like cancer stay in touch with their friends, family members, and support network by creating their own personal page where they share their journey and health updates.
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Treating Stage 0 Colon Cancer
Since stage 0 colon cancers have not grown beyond the inner lining of the colon, surgery to take out the cancer is often the only treatment needed. In most cases this can be done by removing the polyp or taking out the area with cancer through a colonoscope . Removing part of the colon may be needed if a cancer is too big to be removed by local excision.
What Does Your Family Want To Know
When making your decision about details, of course, it can be important to think about those who love you and may help care for you.
Many family members want complete information about how long a loved one may live after being diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. Other family members may find this information very upsetting. They may not want to hear it.
Make sure your healthcare provider knows who in your family wants complete information and who does not.
Your healthcare provider can make a note in your chart describing your goals for information sharing about your cancer treatment. This way, everyone on the healthcare team will be on the same page during appointments.
Being diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer can make you feel out of control. Knowing your options regarding information sharing about your cancer, your treatment decisions, and end of life care decisions will help you move forward at a difficult time.
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