Unfortunately, colon cancers can be well advanced before they are detected. The most effective prevention of colon cancer is early detection and removal of precancerous colon polyps before they turn cancerous. Even in cases where cancer has already developed, early detection still significantly improves the chances of a cure by surgically removing the cancer before the disease spreads to other organs.
Doctors recommend that people over the age of forty, test for colorectal cancer annually, people over fifty years of age should see doctors for flexible sigmoidoscopies every three to five years … and people with a higher risk of developing colon cancer than the general population, should be screened regularly for colorectal cancer using a colonoscopy.
Colorectal cancer medical team
Fighting colorectal cancer often requires a number of different treatments: surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. No single doctor can handle all aspects of your treatment for colorectal cancer. With the guidance of your primary physician, you can work with a team of health care professionals at the hospital, including nurses, pathologists, and other specialists. You may also decide to the following colorectal cancer specialists in your treatment team:
In addition, you might want to seek out others who can help with needs related to colorectal cancer treatment. You could check in with a dietitian to make sure you're getting the right nutrients during treatment. You might also want to see a psychotherapist -- such as a social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist -- to help you cope with the emotional effects of cancer and the treatment process. Members of your family might benefit from therapy as well.
Colorectal cancer prognosis
The long-term outcome or prognosis for colorectal cancer depends on how much the cancer has grown and spread. Experts talk about prognosis in terms of "5-year-survival rates." The 5-year-survival rate means the percentage of people who are still alive 5 years or longer after their cancer was diagnosed. It is important to remember that these are only averages. Everyone's case is different, and these numbers do not necessarily show what will happen to you. The estimated 5-year-survival rate for colorectal cancer is:
Stages of colorectal cancer include:
Stage 0 - The earliest stage; cancer is found only in the innermost lining (mucosa) of the colon and/or rectum.
Stage 1 - Cancer has grown through the mucosa (innermost lining), but hasn't spread beyond the colon wall or rectum wall.
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, or to further lymph nodes.
Recurrent - This means your cancer has come back after treatment. It may recur in your colon, rectum or other part of your body.
After a sample of the cancer tissue has been examined under a microscope, it will be staged. Staging is a way for your doctor to tell how far, if at all, your cancer has spread. It also helps your doctor decide what your treatment should be. To learn more about treatments for colon cancer, including laproscopic colorectal surgery, read the section that follows.