Colon cancer is cancer of the large intestine (colon), the lower part of your digestive system. Rectal cancer is cancer of the last several inches of the colon. Together, they’re often referred to as colorectal cancers.
Most colorectal cancers begin as benign adenomas, or polyps that grow on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. These growths spread very slowly, taking from 10 – 20 years to become cancerous. Regular screening tests can identify and remove polyps before they becomes cancerous. Once colorectal cancer is diagnosed, the prognosis depends on how far the cancer has spread.
About 150,00 cases of colorectal cancer are diagnoses every year in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. Most cases occur in people over 50. Although colorectal cancer is expected to be responsible for about 52,000 deaths a year, it’s highly treatable if caught early.
Several types of this cancer including:
- Carcinoid tumors
- Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors (GISTs)
Stages of colorectal cancer include:
- Stage 0: The earliest stage; cancer is found only in the innermost lining of the colon and/or rectum.
- Stage 1: Cancer has grown through the innermost lining but hasn’t spread beyond the colon wall or rectum.
- Stage 2: Cancer has spread to deeper layers of the wall of the colon or rectum, but not the lymph nodes.
- Stage 3: Cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes but not to other parts of the body.
- Stage 4: Cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the liver and lungs.
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