Colon cancer is a kind of cancer that starts in the large intestine (colon). The colon is terminal part of the digestive tract. It mostly affects older adults, but it can happen in any age. Colon cancer mostly starts as a little noncancerous (benign) clumps of cells clinically called polyps, which are found on the inside of the colon. As they grow, these polyps become colon cancer.
Polyps are mostly small and form few, if any, symptoms. This is why doctors advise people to have regular screening tests to help fight or prevent colon cancer by observing and eradicating polyps before they become cancerous.
There are several treatments that can be used to treat colon cancer, such as surgery, drug treatments and radiation therapy which include targeted therapy, immunotherapy and chemotherapy. Colon cancer is also called colorectal cancer, which is a medical term used to describe the combination of cancer and rectal cancer, which starts at the rectum.
People who are diagnosed with colon cancer are always eager to know what stage it has gotten to. Because the stage helps to explain the extent of the cancer and how far it has spread. Staging colon cancer is vital to know the best treatment that can be given.
Colon cancer is basically staged based on a system formed by the American joint committee on cancer known as the TNM staging system. This system works based on the following factors:
- Primary Tumor (T): Primary tumor explains how large the main tumor is and if the cancer has moved into the walls of the colon or spread to organs close to it.
- Regional Lymph Nodes (N): Regional lymph nodes describe the tendency of the cancer to spread to lymph nodes near the colon, which can be very dangerous.
- Distant Metastases (M): Distance metastases is a factor used to describe the tendency of the cancer to spread from the colon to other vital organs of the body such as the liver, kidney and lungs.
Within every stage of colon cancer, it is classified even further and given a number or letter to indicate the extent of the illness. These numbers or letters are associated with the structure of the colon and how far the cancer has grown through the segments of the colon wall.
The following are the stages of colon:
This is the earliest stage of colon cancer. Stage 0 implies that the cancer has not spread beyond the mucosa (inner layer of the colon tissue) or the innermost layer of the colon. if the cancer is identified at this stage, it is easy to control or treat.
In stage 1 colon cancer, the sickness is more advanced than stage 0. At this stage, the cancer has moved into the inner layer of the colon, known as the mucosa, and into the next layer, the submucosa (where connective tissues and blood vessels are located). At this stage, the lymph nodes have not been affected.