If you or a loved one is dealing with a diagnosis of colorectal cancer, our multidisciplinary team of gastrointestinal cancer specialists at West Cancer Center & Research Institute is here to provide you with the latest treatments and technology to design a personalized treatment plan specific for your disease. Our goal is to also provide resources and information to better help you understand and manage your disease.

What is Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer originates in the inner lining of the colon and/or rectum and usually starts as a polyp, or growth of tissue, which can be noncancerous. These polyps can become cancerous if not removed. If the cancer begins in the rectum, the part of the lower gastrointestinal system where waste is passed from the body, it is referred to as rectal cancer. Likewise, if the colon, the first four to five feet of the large intestine, is the initial site, it is called colon cancer.

Stages of Colon Cancer

 

Stage 0

Abnormal cells are found in the mucosa (innermost layer) of the colon wall. These abnormal cells may become cancer and spread into nearby normal tissue. Stage 0 is also called carcinoma in situ.

Stage I

Cancer has formed in the mucosa (innermost layer) of the colon wall and has spread to the submucosa (layer of tissue next to the mucosa) or to the muscle layer of the colon wall.

Stage II-A

Cancer has spread through the muscle layer of the colon wall to the serosa (outermost layer) of the colon wall.

Stage II-B

Cancer has spread through the serosa (outermost layer) of the colon wall to the tissue that lines the organs in the abdomen (visceral peritoneum).

Stage II-C

Cancer has spread through the serosa (outermost layer) of the colon wall to nearby organs.

Stage III-A

Cancer has spread:

  • through the mucosa (innermost layer) of the colon wall to the submucosa (layer of tissue next to the mucosa) or to the muscle layer of the colon wall. Cancer has spread to one to three nearby lymph nodes or cancer cells have formed in tissue near the lymph nodes; or
  • through the mucosa (innermost layer) of the colon wall to the submucosa (layer of tissue next to the mucosa). Cancer has spread to four to six nearby lymph nodes.

Stage III-B

Cancer has spread:

  • through the muscle layer of the colon wall to the serosa (outermost layer) of the colon wall or has spread through the serosa to the tissue that lines the organs in the abdomen (visceral peritoneum). Cancer has spread to one to three nearby lymph nodes or cancer cells have formed in tissue near the lymph nodes; or
  • to the muscle layer or to the serosa (outermost layer) of the colon wall. Cancer has spread to four to six nearby lymph nodes; or
  • through the mucosa (innermost layer) of the colon wall to the submucosa (layer of tissue next to the mucosa) or to the muscle layer of the colon wall. Cancer has spread to seven or more nearby lymph nodes. 

Stage III-C

Cancer has spread:

  • through the serosa (outermost layer) of the colon wall to the tissue that lines the organs in the abdomen (visceral peritoneum). Cancer has spread to four to six nearby lymph nodes; or
  • through the muscle layer of the colon wall to the serosa (outermost layer) of the colon wall or has spread through the serosa to the tissue that lines the organs in the abdomen (visceral peritoneum). Cancer has spread to seven or more nearby lymph nodes; or
  • through the serosa (outermost layer) of the colon wall to nearby organs. Cancer has spread to one or more nearby lymph nodes or cancer cells have formed in tissue near the lymph nodes.

Stage IV-A

Cancer has spread to one area or organ that is not near the colon, such as the liver, lung, ovary, or a distant lymph node.

Stage IV-B

Cancer has spread to more than one area or organ that is not near the colon, such as the liver, lung, ovary, or a distant lymph node.

Stage IV-C

Cancer has spread to the tissue that lines the wall of the abdomen and may have spread to other areas or organs.

Stages of Rectal Cancer

 

Stage 0

Abnormal cells are found in the mucosa (innermost layer) of the rectum wall. These abnormal cells may become cancer and spread into nearby normal tissue. Stage 0 is also called carcinoma in situ.

Stage I

Cancer has formed in the mucosa (innermost layer) of the rectum wall and has spread to the submucosa (layer of tissue next to the mucosa) or to the muscle layer of the rectum wall.

Stage II-A

Cancer has spread through the muscle layer of the rectum wall to the serosa (outermost layer) of the rectum wall.

Stage II-B

Cancer has spread through the serosa (outermost layer) of the rectum wall to the tissue that lines the organs in the abdomen (visceral peritoneum).

Stage II-C

Cancer has spread through the serosa (outermost layer) of the rectum wall to nearby organs.

Stage III-A

Cancer has spread:

  •  through the mucosa (innermost layer) of the rectum wall to the submucosa (layer of tissue next to the mucosa) or to the muscle layer of the rectum wall. Cancer has spread to one to three nearby lymph nodes or cancer cells have formed in tissue near the lymph nodes; or
  • through the mucosa (innermost layer) of the rectum wall to the submucosa (layer of tissue next to the mucosa). Cancer has spread to four to six nearby lymph nodes.

Stage III-B

Cancer has spread:

  • through the muscle layer of the rectum wall to the serosa (outermost layer) of the rectum wall or has spread through the serosa to the tissue that lines the organs in the abdomen (visceral peritoneum). Cancer has spread to one to three nearby lymph nodes or cancer cells have formed in tissue near the lymph nodes; or
  • to the muscle layer or to the serosa (outermost layer) of the rectum wall. Cancer has spread to four to six nearby lymph nodes; or
  • through the mucosa (innermost layer) of the rectum wall to the submucosa (layer of tissue next to the mucosa) or to the muscle layer of the rectum wall. Cancer has spread to seven or more nearby lymph nodes.

Stage III-C

Cancer has spread:

  • through the serosa (outermost layer) of the rectum wall to the tissue that lines the organs in the abdomen (visceral peritoneum). Cancer has spread to four to six nearby lymph nodes; or
  • through the muscle layer of the rectum wall to the serosa (outermost layer) of the rectum wall or has spread through the serosa to the tissue that lines the organs in the abdomen (visceral peritoneum). Cancer has spread to seven or more nearby lymph nodes; or
  • through the serosa (outermost layer) of the rectum wall to nearby organs. Cancer has spread to one or more nearby lymph nodes or cancer cells have formed in tissue near the lymph nodes.

Stage IV-A

Cancer has spread to one area or organ that is not near the rectum, such as the liver, lung, ovary, or a distant lymph node.

Stage IV-B

Cancer has spread to more than one area or organ that is not near the rectum, such as the liver, lung, ovary, or a distant lymph node.

Stage IV-C

Cancer has spread to the tissue that lines the wall of the abdomen and may have spread to other areas or organs.

Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, we urge you to speak to your provider as soon as possible for further examination.

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Blood in your stool
  • Rectal bleeding
  • A change in bowel habits that last longer than four weeks
  • Constant abdominal discomfort, like pain, gas, or cramps
  • Fatigue
  • Full feeling in your bowel

How to Diagnose Colorectal Cancer

If your provider would like to further investigate the possibility of colorectal cancer, one or more of the following diagnostic procedures may be performed:

BIOPSY

Using a scope with a camera during a procedure called a colonoscopy, your physician will remove abnormal tissue and/or polyps to be analyzed under a microscope to determine if the tissue is cancerous.

BLOOD TEST

By analyzing a sample of your blood, our physicians can check your red and white blood cells and your platelet count.

CARCINOEMBRYONIC ANTIGEN ASSAY (CEA)

This specific type of blood test measures the level of CEA in your blood to see if there is a higher amount than normal, which can be an indicator of cancer.

COMPUTERIZED TOMOGRAPHY (CT)

A donut-shaped piece of equipment uses low dose radiation, either with or without a contrast fluid to detect abnormalities. in the colon and rectum.

MAGNETIC RESONANCE IMAGING (MRI)

Provides detailed images of the colorectal region using magnetic fields to identify any abnormalities that may be cancer.

POSITRON EMISSION TOMOGRAPHY (PET)

A radioactive substance is injected into your bloodstream to collect in cancerous cells and identify the exact location of your cancer.

Your Treatment Plan

Your colorectal cancer treatment plan will vary depending on multiple factors including, but not limited to, your stage of diagnosis, as well as the location of your cancer. Your dedicated team of cancer experts will discuss your treatment options and plan with you, allowing you and your loved ones to consider all possible treatment options for your diagnosis.

COLON CANCER

PARTIAL COLECTOMY

The part of your colon that contains the cancer and some surrounding tissue is removed and  is often able to be reconnected to the healthy portions of your colon. This procedure can commonly be done by a minimally invasive approach (laparoscopy).

CLINICAL TRIAL

Ask your physician if you are eligible for a clinical trial.

CHEMOTHERAPY

Anticancer drugs are administered to attack the your cancer cells and interrupt them from dividing and multiplying.

TARGETED THERAPY

A new form of chemotherapy, allow our doctors to create personalized treatments to target specific genetic differences by using Genomic testing.

RECTAL CANCER

ABDOMINOPERINEAL RESECTION

This surgical procedure removes part of the colon, rectum and anus and a colostomy (plastic bag outside the body) is attached to an opening in the abdomen for body waste evacuation.

LOW ANTERIOR RESECTION

This procedure involves the removal of the rectum then the colon is attached to the remaining section of the rectum to allow for normal bowel movement.

CHEMORADIATION THERAPY

Your team of radiation and medical oncologists design a combined treatment of radiation therapy and chemotherapy. The radiation therapy directs high-energy x-rays to destroy the cancer cells while the anticancer drugs are injected to keep the cancer cells from dividing and multiplying.

TARGETED THERAPY

A new form of chemotherapy, allow our doctors to create personalized treatments to target specific genetic differences by using Genomic testing.

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