Colon cancer staging is the process to discover the extent and the degree to which colon cancer has reached. It is the most important factor in determining the treatment and prognosis appropriate for the stage. The stages of colon cancer are explicated with lucidity in this article.
Colon cancer — in medical nomenclature — is referred to as colorectal cancer. The colon cancer has its origination points in the large intestine, terminating in the colon. Colon, or colorectal cancer, is a cancer that starts in the large intestine (colon) or the rectum (end of the colon). Colon cancer staging describes the extent to which the cancer has metastasized. The staging gives the oncologist a clear perspective of the sight so as to determine the line of treatment and consequential prognosis. The result of the staging is dependent on how far the cancer has reached; whether the progression is in-situ, has localized, or metastasized. CT scans and MRIs, X-rays and PET scans, physical examinations and biopsies are conducted in order to understand the staging of the disease in question.
Methods of Staging
There are two reliable methods of staging: (1) Clinical; and (2) Pathological.
Clinical Staging: This is the preliminary method of staging in which physical examinations serve to be a tool to measure the extent of damage that has been caused and how far the cancer has reached.
Pathological Staging: This method is comparably accurate as the surgeon gets an impression of the degree and the spread of the disease. There can be possibilities that cancer or any discrepancies that did not show in the clinical biopsies are now revealed by the doctor through surgery, thereby increasing the pathological staging and the diagnostic standards.
Effective treatment and therapy postulates conduction of a reliable medical prognosis. Prognosticating the disease incorrectly may hamper the life expectancy of the patient. Moreover, if the cancer is incorrectly categorized, it may lead to the condition regressing. The doctors would have to redress the condition by initiating treatment all over again. When the doctor, diagnosing the staging of the disease, fails to decipher one cancerous cell from a syndicate of healthy cells, an inaccurate staging report is obtained. The staging also confers its dependency on the conduction of random sampling. The term ‘random sampling’ is self-elucidatory. Random samples of lymph nodes are analyzed; however, it is probable that cancerous cells albeit their presence may not feature in the tissue culture conducted. This is where problems arise, as incorrect prognosis inadvertently leads to faulty treatment methods being adopted.
Indicants of Colon Cancer
- Abdominal pain
- Tenderness in the affected area of the lower abdomen
- Weight loss
- Blood in stool
- Narrow and slim stools
- Intestinal obstruction
- Loss of appetite
Stages of Colon Cancer
Stage 0 is the earliest stage of colon cancer where span of detection is concerned. The cancer at this stage only involves the lining of the colon being affected. The physical examination reveals the presence of polyps. Polyps are tiny, pustule-like structures and are tissues that bulge or protrude through the organ. During a procedure called colonoscopy, the tissues are removed, thus the chance of cancer progressing to the next stage is remitted. Colonoscopy is a test in which the practitioner inserts a device, i.e., a video camera, that navigates through the insides of the anus, transposing into the colon. This device is maneuvered by the doctor. It is meant to capture images of the affected colon area and shows the discrepancy in the colon on the screen that is being viewed by the doctor. The extent of damage is well judged by a colonoscopy also known as polypectomy.
Stage I of cancer involves more than the inner walls covered by polyps. The polyps have now transformed into a tumor and extend up to the wall of the rectum. The section of the colon that is affected by the tumor can be surgically removed. The healthy section of the colon can be joined back together. This is a surgery that is referred to as resection. This surgery increases and adheres to the five-year survival rate.
This stage is characterized by cancer that has spread beyond the colon; however, the cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes. When cancer spreads form one part of the body to another, it is called metastasis. The resection surgery applies to this stage as well, with the five-year survival rate dropping to 60%.
The cancer has localized to the lymph nodes in the area around the colon. The cancer in this stage is still controlled as the cancer has not spread to other organs of the body. A surgical resection, chemotherapy, and medical supplements are pivotal at this stage. The five-year survival rate drops to 35-60%.
In this stage, the cancer has metastasized, i.e, it has spread to other parts of the body, such as the lungs, or the liver. Radiation, chemotherapy, and surgical resection become mandatory in this stage of cancer. There are only 3% chances of reaching the five-year survival rate.
After cancer is treated, there are chances that it may regress. After the five-year lapse, if the cancer does not recede, the person is said to have been completely cured.
Treatment for Colon Cancer
- Radiation Therapy
- Colectomy Surgery (to remove the section that is cancerous)
Whatever be the mode of detecting the disease, at the end of the day, it is the individual’s well-being that matters. Post treatment, one may be asked to continue with prognostic procedures to avert any possibility of recurrence.