Understanding the Stages of Colon Cancer

Like most other cancers, colorectal cancer has clinical and surgical stages set by the American Joint Committee On Cancer. These stages outline and determine how serious the cancer is and how best to treat it, making the identification and understanding of the stages of colon cancer helpful not only for physicians, but also for patients.

It Starts with a Diagnosis

cancer cells shown in the colon

A diagnosis is made by conducting various tests and performing a biopsy. Then Bayou City Surgical Specialists will look at the cancerous tissue from the colon or the rectum giving them the following important information:

  • It helps them decide on the stage of the cancer
  • It helps them confirm how advanced it is
  • It will help them decide on the needed treatment
  • It may help forecast where the cancer will likely go in the body
  • It will help them ascertain the chances for recovery, known as a prognosis

Determining the Stages for Colon Cancer

In general, staging sets the definitions for how much cancer is in the body and whether or not it has spread to other areas.

There are two types of staging: clinical and surgical. Clinical staging is the combination of information collected from all the tests performed. Surgical (or pathological) staging  is a result of surgery and is much more accurate than clinical staging.

For colorectal cancer staging, there are three key elements that determine the stage:

  1. The size or extent of the tumor
  2. The spread to lymph nodes
  3. The deadly spread to other organs or nodes (metastasis)

The Current Stages for Colon Cancer

There are five stages of colorectal cancer from 0 to 4. The higher numbers and letters indicates a more advanced stage.

Stage 0

Indicates a very early treatable cancer which  has not moved beyond the inner layer or mucosa of the colon or rectum.

Stage 1

In stage 1 the cancer has grown into the submucosa layer and maybe into the muscle beneath it. At this stage it has not yet spread to the patient’s lymph nodes or other systems of the body.

Stage 2A

At this stage, the individual’s colon cancer has grown into the wall of the colon or rectum, but has not progressed all the way through the wall. It has also not spread beyond the area.

Stage 2B

The cancer is through the wall of the colon or rectum, but not into nearby tissue or any organs. It has not yet spread to lymph nodes or other regions of the body.

Stage 2C

The cancer has advanced beyond the wall of the rectum or colon and has attached to nearby tissue or other organs. It still has not spread into nearby lymph nodes or anywhere else.

Stage 3A

In this stage, a patient’s colon cancer has grown into the submucosa and muscle of the colon or rectum. It has also managed to spread to 1-3 lymph nodes or into the fatty tissues near the lymph nodes, but the cancer has not extended to more distant areas of the large intestine.

Stage 3B

Once colon cancer reaches stage 3B, it has grown into the wall of the colon or rectum or through the inner lining of the abdomen called the peritoneum, but has still not attached itself to any other organs. However, in this stage it is possible for the cancer to spread to 1-3 lymph nodes, or areas of fat around lymph nodes.

Stage 3C

An individual in this stage has colon cancer that extends through the wall of the colon or rectum, the tissues that line these sections of the digestive tract, but not any nearby organs. This stage also indicates that the cancer has now affected up to 4-6 lymph nodes.

Stage 4A

If a patient reaches the 4th level of colon cancer staging it means that the cancer has now spread to one other organ, such as the liver or lungs.

Stage 4B

Individuals in stage 4B suffer from colon cancer that has metastasized to reach more than one organ.

Stage 4C

The most severe stage of colon cancer, stage 4C sites cases where the cancer cells have managed to reach distant parts of the peritoneum.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, speak to Bayou City Surgical Specialists about the prognosis of your stage to determine which type of treatment holds the best possible outlook.

If you have any further questions, please call (832) 942-8350 or request an appointment online today!