Colorectal cancer

Colon Cancer: The Different Stages and What to Expect

Just diagnosed with colon cancer? It's normal to feel overwhelmed by what comes next. Know that you're not alone, and we’re here to guide you through understanding your diagnosis and finding the right treatment path.

Any cancer that develops in the colon (large intestine) or the rectum, which connects the colon to the anus, is referred to as “colorectal cancer“. Although the phrases “colon cancer” and “rectal cancer” are occasionally used to refer to different diseases depending on where they originated, there are many parallels between them in terms of risk factors, symptoms, and methods of diagnosis and treatment. Let’s take a look and get a better understanding of this deadly disease.

What is Colon Cancer?

Normal cells lining the colon or rectum can begin to grow or change uncontrollably.  As this happens, a small growth called a polyp can form.  Overtime, the continued growth will turn into colorectal cancerColorectal cancer is a result of both environmental factors and genetic predisposition and while it is still a major cause of death for both sexes, recent advances in screening and treatment approaches have significantly increased survival rates.

A healthcare professional in blue scrubs and gloves holds a cross-sectional model of the human colon, showing the interior anatomy and possible areas affected by colon cancer.

What are The Symptoms

Many people with colon cancer may not show any symptoms at all at first. When symptoms do appear, they usually differ according to the location and extent of the cancer in the large intestine.

Colon cancer symptoms can include:

A visual representation of colon cancer symptoms with a person clutching their abdomen where the digestive tract is highlighted in orange to indicate discomfort or pain in that area.

Stages of Colon Cancer

Staging is a broad framework used by doctors to evaluate the degree of cancer progression. Colon cancer develops as follows:

Stage 1 and 2

The cancer is localized to the colon or the rectum.

Stage 3

The cancer has spread to the lymph nodes around the bowel.  Lymph nodes play a role in the immune system, but are the first organ that cancer often spreads.

Stage 4

The cancer has spread to distant organs such as the liver or the lungs.

Treatment Options for Colorectal Cancer

Treatment is individualized the patient and the extent of their disease.  For colon cancer, in the absence of spread to other organs, surgery is often the first treatment.  This can be followed by chemotherapy depending on the extent of the disease.

The treatment of rectal cancer is more complex than colon cancer.  Treatments include chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery.  The selection of treatments and the sequencing is very much individualized.

A doctor explains colon cancer treatment options to a patient, who is looking at medical documents while seated in a hospital bed, suggesting an engaged discussion about the patient’s care plan.

How To Prevent Colon Cancer

Screening is the best way we can prevent or find early curable colorectal cancer.  Depending on one’s age, family history and presence of symptims, either FIT testing or colonoscopy may be recommended.  

If you are facing some of the symptoms related to colon cancer, please have your doctor send a referral to North York Colorectal Group and let’s discuss how we can help you out.