The incidence of colon cancer has been on the rise for the last few decades. The good news is because of the advancement in technology, screening of cancer and better treatment regimens, the mortality rate has considerably decreased.
To answer whether or not, you can fight the colon cancer is complex. Every person’s cancer differs from one another and so does their response to the treatment. Either you can be vigilant enough to report your symptoms earlier and be diagnosed timely before the progression and complications of disease. Or you may be late to observe and pinpoint the abnormal signs and symptoms your body had been showing you, decreasing recovery chances.
Your treatment success rate greatly depends on your early diagnosis. Then comes your willpower and determination towards the treatment goal. Let’s find out how colon cancer can affect you.
What Is Colon Cancer?
In simple words, colon cancer is the cancer of intestine. Oftentimes rectal cancer is also accompanied which is the cancer of the last part of the intestine, close to anus. These two cancers are termed as colorectal cancer.
Generally, the normal cells in our body are strictly regulated to divide, grow and die as normal regulation of cells. However, due to mutations in genes, the cells of the intestine may keep dividing and producing new cells without the old cells dying, even when there is no need of additional cells. These abnormal cells divide so fast that they don’t get differentiated properly. The poorly differentiated cells, that are aggregated, form a tumor that is known as cancer. However, for a tumor to be called cancerous, it is a must that these abnormal cells have the ability to invade other cells.
The survival rate of colon cancer depends on the advancement of cancer. The most common system to classify the advancement of cancer is the staging system. This system comprises of five stages, 0-4, with stage IV being the most progressed one. In general, the less advanced the cancer, the greater the chances for its successful treatment.
How Does Staging Of Cancer Determine The Survival:
Before establishing the link between the stages of cancer and survival rate, you should know what exactly happens in different stages of colon cancer. The cancer starts from the inside of a hollow tube (imagine as intestine). First, it affects the lining or covering of this tube (mucosa). As it gets advanced, it penetrates the wall (that consists of submucosal layer and muscles) and finally reach the outer covering of tube (serosa).
Meanwhile, the cancer tries to disrupt the blood vessels and lymph channels so that it doesn’t have to dig the hollow tube, instead it easily swims to another place. You can rationally think how easy it would be to treat just the small portion of the lining. The problem actually starts when cancer has affected large number of cells and it gets even worse when some of it has left its original site to metastasize. Below are the statistics showing cancer survival rates according to the National Cancer Institute’s SEER database (2004-2010).
Stage 0 Colon Cancer:
Stage 0 cancer is also known as carcinoma in situ. It is the cancer which arises in the epithelium (mucosal lining) of the colon and remains there until progressed to the next stage. Treatment, most of the time, requires only the removal of the polyps (abnormal growth of cells projecting from a mucous membrane). However, in some cases, surgical resection is needed, if the tumor is large enough, or to rule out any chances of spreading. The survival rate at stage 0 of colon cancer is around 96%. Exercise has found to increase the survival chances.
Stage 1 Colon Cancer:
In stage 1 colon cancer, cancer progresses to the inner wall of the colon, but the cells do not affect the muscular coat or the lymph nodes yet. This stage is a relatively low stage and the standard treatment requires surgical resection of the part of colon and its associated lymph nodes. Typically, no additional treatment is needed. The survival rate at this stage is around 92%.
Stage 2 Colon Cancer:
Stage 2 colon cancer is larger and it spreads beyond the inner wall of the colon, penetrating in the muscular layer of wall and adjacent cells. However, the lymph nodes are not affected in stage 2 colon cancer. The treatment regimens include surgical resection of the affected colon and also its lymph nodes. Oftentimes, this is followed by chemotherapy as a precaution. Chemotherapy targeted to prevent the recurrence of disease is usually done for people who are likely to get the cancer back. The survival rate drops due to the relative advancement of disease ranging from 63% with stage II B to 87% in stage II A cancer.
Stage 3 Colon Cancer:
At stage III colon cancer, that is an advanced stage of cancer, the cancerous tumor has spread to distant sites beyond the confinement of colon wall. It reaches the regional lymph nodes that shows metastasis has already initiated. Presence of cancer in lymph nodes pose a risk of the metastasis to other organ as well.
For its treatment, surgical removal of the affected colon is not sufficient. Chemotherapy is added to the treatment regimen as cancer has moved away from its original site. The survival rate further drops with stage III A, B and C with 89%, 69% and 53% respectively.
Stage 4 Colon Cancer:
It is the last stage of colon cancer in which the cancer has metastasized (spread) to another organ be it the lungs, liver or any other organ. The advancement of cancer and involvement of multiple organs can cause complications for treatment.
Surgery is generally done to prevent or relieve complications. The treatment goal is to restrict the invasion of cancer, enough to be removed by surgery. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy or both are essential for proper treatment to control, relieve or delay the symptoms. As far as survival rates are concerned, it is very low i.e. around 11% due to the involvement of multiple organs and the continual invasion of the cancerous cells.
Don’t forget these survival rates are only estimate and they can’t predict what happens to a person individually. Many other factors are responsible for successful recovery like willpower, determination, response to the treatment and the most important lifestyle and attitude. For better understanding of your case, consult your primary doctor or oncologist.
Three Keys to Help You Through the Process?
- Prevention is the first step of health. Your attention should be focused. To help, you should know which foods are good for you and which ones are not. We would be happy to help you with this process as every person is different
- Signs and symptoms (hyperlink of signs and symptoms of colon cancer) associated with colon cancer should be investigated in the body. Regular screening should be done, especially in people older than 50 years of age, to identify the disease as early as possible. This will reduce the complications of advancement of cancer and prognosis of the disease will be better.
- When a doctor tells the patient that he has stage IV cancer, a lot of questions come to mind, including what the future holds. Even if the disease cannot be cured, there are treatments that extend life and decreases pain. Improving the overall quality of life is key. But remember every person is different.
Colon cancer is the cancer of intestine and its incidence is on rise. Owing to early screening, the mortality rate has considerably decreased. However, the later the cancer is diagnosed, the greater complications it can create. Maintain a healthy weight by having a proper diet personalized for you and exercising. Go for regular screening and be vigilant to identify the common signs and symptoms associated with it.