Understanding Colorectal Cancer
What is colorectal cancer?
Colorectal cancer begins in the colon or rectum. Depending on where these cancers initially develop, they can also be referred to as rectal or colon cancer. Most colorectal cancers mature over several years, beginning as a growth of tissue or tumor referred to as a non-cancerous polyp. Polyps are found on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Polyps can develop into cancer, but not all do.
What are the stages of colon cancer?
The process associated with finding out if cancer has spread to the colon or other parts of the body is called staging. The information that is gathered during the staging process determines the exact stage of the disease. It is critical to know the stage of illness to plan the treatment accordingly.
- Stage 0: The cancer is limited and confined to the mucosa of the colon wall, or to the inner lining of the rectum.
- Stage I: The cancer is a bit more advanced, but still constricted to the colon wall.
- Stage II: The colon cancer has broken through the colon wall, but has not spread to any nearby organs.
- Stage III: The colon cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.
- Stage IV: The cancer has spread through the colon wall to nearby organs that could include the lungs, liver, ovaries and lymph nodes.
What are the stages of rectal cancer?
- Stage 0: The tumor is exclusively positioned in the inner lining of the rectum.
- Stage I: The tumor has broken through the inner lining of the rectum, but has not moved past the muscular wall.
- Stage II: The tumor has punctured through the bowel wall and could potentially invade other organs, such as the bladder, uterus or prostate gland.
- Stage III: The tumor has extended to the lymph nodes.
- Stage IV: The tumor has dispersed to distant parts of the body, most often to the liver and lung.
Want to learn more?
Visit these online sources to learn more about colorectal cancer.
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center - Anal Cancer
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center - Colon Cancer
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center - Rectal Cancer
MD Anderson Cancer Center - Anal Cancer
MD Anderson Cancer Center - Colon Cancer
MD Anderson Cancer Center - Rectal Cancer