Colon cancer has developed to be among the most common cancer not only in the US but globally. In fact, it ranks third in excluding some common skin cancers. Studies indicate that 1 in 23 men and 1 in 25 women are expected to develop colon cancer at some point in their lifetimes. 2 Colon cancer causes like genetic mutation and colorectal polyps increase your risk factors for developing colorectal cancer.
Generally, the symptoms, treatment options, and survival rate of this condition rely on the stage of your cancer at the time of your initial diagnosis. The earlier you get a diagnosis of colorectal cancer, the better the prognosis. Unfortunately, early stage or stage 1 colon cancer symptoms resemble other common digestive and bowel issues.
Keep reading for a comprehensive understanding of colon cancer symptoms, stages, and prognosis.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Colon Cancer
During the earlier stages, colon cancer fails to show signs and symptoms. But as it progresses, this cancer type tends to show signs of rectal bleeding. You may also experience a change in your bowel habits, which may last for more than a few days. You may also experience unexplained weakness and fatigue.
Some of the most prevalent signs and symptoms that may show you have colon cancer are:3
- Rectal bleeding
- Having a feeling that your bowel is half empty.
- An alteration in bowel movement that lasts for more than a few days, such as diarrhea, constipation, or constriction of the stool
- A painful bowel movement.
- Having mucus or blood in your stool.
- Blood in the stool, which could make it seem black or dark brown
- Abdominal pain (belly) or cramping pain
- Weakness and exhaustion
- Unintentional weight reduction
Normally, colon cancer always results in bleeding into the digestive tract. Sometimes, blood may be visible in the stool or appear darker than usual. However, blood loss can accumulate over time and result in low red blood cell counts. Consequently, colon cancer can potentially cause iron-deficiency anemia.4
Some people exhibit colon cancer symptoms such as enlarged liver to show that cancer has progressed to the liver. Others also show jaundice and breathing problems, indicating that cancer has moved to the lungs.
It is worth noting that most of these symptoms can also be due to other conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, infections, and hemorrhoids. But, it’s crucial to visit your provider as soon as possible if you experience any of these issues, so that the cause may be identified and addressed.
Classification of Colon Cancer Stages
Once you have been diagnosed with colon cancer, your provider will undertake a staging process to determine the severity of the condition and how far it has spread. Cancer staging describes how much is in the body and helps determine the best treatment course. It is also critical when clinical oncology doctors want to assess your survival rate.
The American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) TNM approach is the most frequently applied colorectal cancer staging method. It uses the surgical stage, established by evaluating tissues extracted following an operation. Unlike clinical staging, pathologic or surgical staging is more accurate since it provides a clear understanding of the scope and nature of cancer.
Stage 0 Colon Cancer
This stage is also referred to as carcinoma in situ, which implies that the cancer is still in its early stages and that no indications of the disease are present. The abnormal cancer cells are located in the wall or mucosa of the colon. At this stage, cancer cells have not spread beyond the inner layer of the rectum (Tis, N0, M0).
Stage I Colon Cancer
At this stage, the tumor has invaded the mucosa and submucosa and may have also spread to the muscularis propria. The large intestine underlying, or submucosa, is below the mucosa. In this stage, cancer may have penetrated the deeper muscle layer of the colon wall but it has not spread outside the colon (T1 or T2, N0, M0).
Stage II Colon Cancer
Stage II colon cancer has spread beyond the colon wall, but has not yet reached the nearby lymph nodes. Three stages can be distinguished within this syndrome.
- Stage IIA: Cancer has not advanced to nearby lymph nodes or distant sites; it has only reached the serosa or outer colon wall. Hence, stated as (T3, N0, M0).
- Stage IIB Cancer: The colon or rectum wall has been penetrated by cancer but has not spread to any surrounding tissues or organs. It has not yet progressed to far-off or local lymph nodes (T4a, N0, M0).
- Stage IIC: The tumor has expanded into adjacent structures after penetrating the colon or rectum’s wall. It hasn’t spread elsewhere or to the adjacent lymph nodes (T4b, N0, M0).
Stage III Colon Cancer
Cancer that has spread past the lining of the colon and has affected the lymph nodes is considered stage III colon cancer. In this stage, even though the lymph nodes are affected, cancer has not yet affected other organs in the body. This stage is further divided into three categories:
- Stage IIIA: The malignancy has invaded the intestine’s inner lining or muscular layers. Even though it has spread to one to three lymph nodes or a nodule of tumor cells in tissues surrounding the colon, it has not expanded to other body organs (T1 or T2, N1 or N1c, M0; or T1, N2a, M0).
- Stage IIIB: The tumor has progressed to the bowel wall or nearby organs and into one or three lymph nodes of the tumor in the tissue surrounding the colon that does not seem like lymph nodes. However, it has not penetrated other body parts (T3 or T4a, N1 or N1c, M0; T2 or T3, N2a, M0; or T1 or T2, N2b, M0).
- Stage IIIC: Despite its spread, cancer has grown to four or more lymph nodes without going to other body parts (T4a, N2a, M0; T3 or T4a, N2b, M0; or T4b, N1 or N2, M0).
Stage IV Colon Cancer
Stage IV colon cancer is when the disease has spread to other body organs through the lymphatic system and blood. It is described using categories like:
- Stage IVA: The lungs or liver are just two examples of distant body parts where the tumor has invaded (any T, any N, M1a).
- Stage IVB: More than one body area has been affected by the illness (any T, any N, M1b).
- Stage IVC: The peritoneum has been infected with cancer and other different areas or organs (any T, any N, M1c).
Here are additional categories that are not mentioned above:
- TX: Cancer cannot be evaluated and staged due to inadequate or lack of details.
- T0: There are no signs of the main tumor.
- NX: Regional lymph nodes cannot be examined due to a lack of data.
Cancer can also be recurrent, implying that it has reappeared after treatment. In such instances, doctors will conduct a thorough analysis to determine the extent and cause of the recurrence.
Survival Rate of Colon Cancer
Colon cancer survival rate is assessed in terms of the 5-year survival rate. This method shows what percentage of people survive at least five years after receiving a positive diagnosis of colon cancer. As for colon cancer patients, the 5-year survival rate is around 65%. 5But that can change due to several variables, most notably the stage.
The average 5-year survival rate for localized stage colon cancer is around 91%, and 37% are those diagnosed in early stages. The 5-year survival rate is 72% if cancer has spread to nearby tissues, organs, or local lymph nodes. At this local level, roughly 36% of individuals receive a diagnosis. While if cancer has progressed to distant areas of the body, the 5-year survival rate is 15%. At this advanced stage, 22% of individuals receive a diagnosis.
The 5-year survival rate for patients with just 1 or 2 cancers that have progressed from the colon to the liver or lung is significantly increased when these patients have these tumors surgically removed.
Get Colon Cancer Treatment At Immunity Therapy Center
Colon cancer is becoming a common illness in the US and the entire universe. In most cases, people with this illness fail to recognize it because its symptoms may not show up until later stages. Thus, always ensure you get early colorectal cancer screening because it is the only way to discover and treat the condition. Regular colonoscopy and colon cancer screening will also help determine colon cancer staging, which is crucial in assessing your survival rate.
At Immunity Therapy Center, we offer you alternative treatment options and cancer care in addition to conventional chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Our non-invasive colon cancer natural treatment and therapies have helped patients with cancer in even the most advanced stages have found hope for recovery. Get in touch or give us a call to learn more about how we can help you start a cancer-healing journey.
Written By: Dr. Adolfo Carrillo
Dr. Adolfo Carrillo is a Board Certified Medical Doctor from Universidad Autónoma de Baja California.
Dr. Carrillo has been collaborating with Dr. Bautista for over 5 years as a treating physician at the Immunity the Immunity Therapy Center. Dr. Carrillo is a charismatic Doctor whose knowledge and commitment to patient care and bringing healing to patients is a valuable asset to our center.
- Colon Cancer Coalition. “What You Need to Know.” https://coloncancercoalition.org/get-educated/what-you-need-to-know/
- American Cancer Society. “Key Statistics for Colorectal Cancer.” https://www.cancer.org/cancer/colon-rectal-cancer/about/key-statistics.html
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “What Are the Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer?” https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/colorectal/basic_info/symptoms.htm
- Fazeli, Mohammad Sadegh, and Mohammad Reza Keramati. “Rectal cancer: a review.” Medical journal of the Islamic Republic of Iran 29 (2015): 171. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4431429/
- Cancer.Net. “Colorectal Cancer: Statistics.” https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/colorectal-cancer/statistics
At Immunity Therapy Center, our goal is to provide objective, updated, and research-based information on all health-related topics. This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles. All information has been fact-checked and reviewed by Dr. Carlos Bautista, a Board Certified Medical Doctor at Immunity Therapy Center. All information published on the site must undergo an extensive review process to ensure accuracy. This article contains trusted sources with all references hyperlinked for the reader's visibility.