Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Colon Cancer Life Expectancy

Learning about their colon cancer life expectancy can help many people understand the causes, precursors, stages, treatment, and how all of this information affects their survival rate for colorectal cancer.  Being diagnosed with colon cancer is not necessarily a death sentence.  Obviously, the earlier you are diagnosed, your survival rate and life expectancy increase dramatically. 

Most health care professionals agree that a patient who is actively involved in their treatment and researching all aspects of their disease actually help them cope with handling their colon cancer.  Even natural or non traditional treatments may help the patient feel empowered, keep a more positive attitude, and may feel better even though their perception of improvement may be caused by a placebo effect. Unfortunately, some patients view themselves as victims and research or not, does not help them to fight.  Even if they try to arm themselves with knowledge, their worst fears overwhelm them.  But the bottom line for you, the patient, is always:

1.  What Stage Am I In?
2.  Will I Be Cured?
3.  What Is My Survival Rate?
4.  What Is My Life Expectancy?

Stages Of Colorectal Cancer:


Stage 0:
The cancer is found exclusively in the patient's innermost lining of their colon.  Doctors utilize two types of surgeries depending on the size of the tumor.  A polypectomy is the removal of a small tumor and some surrounding tissue.  For larger tumors, doctors remove the diseased area and then connect the two healthy sections called an anastomosis.  Your colon cancer is considered cured if the surgery has removed all the cancer.

Stage 1:
Tumors in this stage have moved to the second and third layers and involve the inside wall of the colon.  Again, standard treatment results in surgery to remove the cancer and additional surrounding tissue.  More treatment is usually not necessary.  According to the American Cancer Society, aggressive surgery increases the life expectancy of colon cancer patients tremendously.  Colorectal cancer patient have a 5 year survival rate of 93%.

Stage 2:
This stage of cancer has larger tumors and extend through the wall of the colon.  But, the cancer has not yet spread into the lymph nodes.  Again, standard treatment involves surgical removal of the cancer and surrounding areas.  Adjuvant chemotherapy and immunotherapy treatment may be available at this stage of colon cancer.  Chemotherapy is often used as a precautionary treatment against the colorectal cancer's reccurrence.  Survival rate at Stage 2 for colon cancer is 78%.

Stage 3:
Cancer at this stage has spread outside the colon to one or more lymph nodes.  Lymph nodes, found throughout your body, creat and store your cells which fight infections.
Dukes Stage C1 have tumors within your colon wall and also involve your lymph nodes.  Dukes Stage C2 tumors have spread through the colon wall and to one to four lymph nodes.  Dukes Stage C3 tumors have spread to five or more lymph nodes.

Stage 3 Treatment:
Surgically remove the tumor and all involved lymph nodes.  Post surgery, chemotherapy with 5-FU and leucovorin.  Radiation can be required for larger tumors which is invading the tissue that surrounds the colon.  Survival rate beyond five years for Stage 3 colon cancer is approximately 64%.  Patients have a higher colon cancer life expectancy with one to four positive lymph nodes versus five involved lymph nodes.

Stage 4:

Colorectal cancers spreading outside the colon to other areas like the liver or lungs define Stage 4.  Tumors could be any size, with or without involved lymph nodes.

Possible Stage 4 Treatments:
1. Perform a bowel resection after removing all signs of the cancer.
2. Surgically remove parts of other organs involved with the cancer such as the liver, lungs or ovaries.
3. Chemotherapy for reduction of symptoms with or without Erbitux, Avastin or Vecibix.
4. Immunological therapy or clinical trials of new regimens.
5. Radiation may be used to help relieve symptoms.

The colon cancer Stage 4 five year survival rate is about 8%.

After treatment, recurrent colorectal cancer can appear locally or near the initial cancer site, or it can rear its ugly head in distant organs.  Up to 2/3 of patients who die from colorectal cancer occur when the liver is involved.  Of course, recurrence happens more often in patients with more advanced colon cancer.  Radiation after surgery does not help with colon cancer, but can prolong survival for patients with rectal cancer.  However, radiation before surgery may reduce the size of your tumor therefore increasing your chances of successful removal.  It also may reduce your risk of recurrence.

Surgery to remove any recurrent cancer may improve the patient's lifespan and sometimes may be curative in conjunction with chemotherapy.  Unfortunately, if the metastases can not be completely removed, chemotherapy is still the main treatment.  Clinical trials may be another option.
The good news is that colon cancer is curable when diagnosed early, and especially if discovered in a precancerous state, for example, like a polyp.  Naturally, physicians and patients hope to diagnose colon lesions before malignancy to avoid the invasive nature of surgery and chemotherapy.

People at high risk for developing colorectal cancers may have the following:

Ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease
Breast, uterine, or ovarian cancer past or present
Family history of colon cancer
Age 50 or older
History of polyps

One's risk of colon cancer increase by two or three times if your parent or sibling has colon cancer.  Your risk increase even more if more than one family member affected with colon cancer.  Obesity and smoking have been definitely linked to a higher risk for colon cancer.

In the United States, 1 in 17 people will develop colorectal cancer.  According to the National Cancer Institute, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer among men, white and African American women.  Colorectal cancer deaths rank third for men (after lung & prostate) and third for women (after lung & breast).

Colon Cancer Symptoms:

Bleeding from your rectum or blood in your stool.  Many people mistakenly blame this bleeding on hemorrhoids.  However rectal bleeding can be difficult to discover and may be revealed via an iron deficiency anemia.  Fatigue and pale skin can also be symptoms. Bleeding can be detected using a fecal occult blood test.
If the tumor gets large enough, an obstruction may occur in your colon yielding the following symptoms:

Distention of the abdomen
Abdominal pain (although rare in colon cancer)
Persistent or unexplained nausea or vomiting
Unexplained weight loss
Change in bowel movements (frequency or stool consistency)
Feelings of incomplete evacuation after a bowel movement
Rectal pain (although may indicate a tumor in the rectum and not colon cancer)

Studies have suggested that the average time from the onset of symptoms to the diagnosis is approximately 14 weeks.  However, the is no connection between the duration of your symptoms and the stage of your tumor.
Physical exams and history, digital rectal exam, fecal occult blood test, barium enema, sigmoidoscopy and a colonoscopy are the common methods to diagnose colorectal cancer.

A patient's colon cancer life expectancy depends on factors like general health, diet, observing the symptoms and getting diagnosed early, being aggressive with your treatment, and following up after treatment to diagnose early if there is a recurrence.  The sooner you are diagnosed and receive treatment, the higher your survival rate and life expectancy may be.


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