Stages And Symptoms Of Colon Cancer
Colon cancer ranks at the thirteenth position in India. It is a cancer that occurs in the colon (large intestine). Colon cancer can happen to anyone regardless of age and gender. It is difficult to diagnose colon cancer in its early stages due to very few or no symptoms. There are various stages of colon cancer; however, it is treatable in its early stages, so regular diagnostic tests must be done to find colon cancer in its early stages.
Once diagnosed with cancer, staging the cancer is the next essential step. Staging cancer helps in knowing the extent of the spread of cancer, its location, and whether it has spread to the nearby tissues or not, thereby aiding in planning a suitable treatment plan for the patient.
The TNM Stages Of Colon Cancer
Colon cancer stages are usually based upon the TNM staging by the American Joint Committee. According to the TNM staging.
- T (T stands for tumor): Which describes how big is the original tumor and how far it has grown into the colon wall.
- N (N stands for node): It describes if cancer has spread to the nearby lymph nodes or not.
- M (M stands for metastasis): It describes whether cancer has metastasized or spread from the colon into the surrounding organs or not.
There are five stages of colon cancer. They are:
1. Stage 0: Stage 0 is called cancer in situ or carcinoma in situ. This stage of colon cancer represents cancer in its early stage. According to stage 0, the cancer cells are present in the inner lining of the colon (mucosa).
2. Stage 1: Stage 1 of colon cancer means that cancer has grown beyond the inner lining into the submucosa and the muscular layer of the colon. However, it has not invaded the surrounding lymph nodes.
3. Stage 2: Stage 2 cancers are classified into the following stages:
- Stage 2A: In this stage, colon cancer has grown through the colon wall. However, it has not spread into the nearby lymph nodes and tissues.
- Stage 2B: Cancer has spread through the muscle layers and into the abdomen lining known as the visceral peritoneum in this stage. However, it has not spread into the nearby lymph nodes.
- Stage 2C: According to stage 2C, colon cancer has grown from the outer layer of the colon and has spread into the surrounding organs and structure. However, it has not spread into the nearby lymph nodes.
4. Stage 3: Stage 3 is further classified into the following stages:
- Stage 3A: According to stage 3A, colon cancer has grown through or into the colon’s muscular linings and has spread into 1 to 3 nearby lymph nodes. However, it has not spread into the distant nodes and organs.
- Stage 3B: In this stage, cancer has grown into the bowel wall and surrounding organs and spread into 1 to 3 lymph nodes around the colon. However, it has not spread to other body parts.
- Stage 3C: The colon cancer has spread to 4 or more than 4 lymph nodes regardless of how far it has grown. However, it has not spread to other distant body parts.
5. Stage 4: Stage four is further classified into the following:
- Stage 4A: In this stage, cancer has spread to one area or organs like the liver or lung.
- Stage 4B: Cancer has spread to more than one body part in this stage.
- Stage 4C: In stage 4C cancer has spread to the peritoneum and might have also reached other body parts.
Colon Cancer Symptoms According To Stages
In its early stages, there might be no prominent symptoms of colon cancer: however, as cancer progresses, the patient starts experiencing symptoms.
Some Symptoms Of Early-Stage Colon Cancer Include:
- Change in colour and shape of stools
- Bloody stools
- Rectal bleeding
- Unexplained loss of weight
- Excessive gas
- Loss of appetite
- Pain in the abdomen
- Cramps in the abdomen
Some Symptoms Of Late-Stage Colon Cancer Include:
- Poor appetite and weight loss
- Difficulty in breathing
- Swelling in the hands and feet
- Fractures in bone
- Severe headache
- Blurred vision
- Chest infections
- Fluid build-up in the chest and lung
- Coughing blood
Colon cancer treatment depends on its type and stage. Usually, surgery is the first option to treat colon cancer. However, surgical tumor removal and chemotherapy or radiotherapy can be used to treat cancer that has spread to the nearby lymph nodes. If cancer has started spreading to distant organs, like the liver, lungs, or ovary, then the treatment approach will be to improve survival and prevent further damage through surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and targeted drugs