The Prognosis for a Person with Stage 4 Colon Cancer
Getting a colon cancer diagnosis is often a scary and stressful process. When the doctor diagnoses a person with stage 4 colon cancer, there are a lot of questions and not many answers.
Colon cancer simply references cancer that has begun in the colon, usually in the form of a tumor. Once it metastasizes or spreads, to other organs, tissues, or symptoms, it is referred to as a stage 4 cancer. Most often, when colon cancer spreads, it goes to the liver, lungs, lymph nodes, or further into the abdominal cavity lining.
Though the American Cancer Society reports that only 14% of people with stage 4 colon cancer survive 5 years, everyone is different, and there are other factors involved in a person’s rate of survival.
Diagnosing colon cancer
There are many different tests to detect cancer, and then, to locate cancer within the body. Once located, doctors then run more tests to see if it’s spread, and where.
Tests and procedures for diagnosing colon cancer include but aren’t limited to:
- Physical exam
- Blood testing
- Biopsy of tissues, doctors will send small samples to a lab for testing
- Molecular testing: this can identify the specific tumor and cancer characteristics that will inform the treatment plan
- Imaging scans such as a CT, ultrasound, PET, and/or MRI which will help doctors determine if the cancer has spread and where
- Chest x-rays: these will help if a doctor suspects the cancer has spread to the lungs
Making treatment decisions
Once all necessary testing has been done, the doctor will be able to discuss the diagnosis with the patient and present some treatment options.
It can be very scary and overwhelming to discuss a cancer diagnosis. However, taking the time to go through test results, treatment approaches and the goals of each treatment is critical in understanding the diagnosis and making an informed decision. Patients should bring their support network with them to these appointments, keep a log or notebook, ask questions, and carefully review all the information presented.