Stage 4 colon cancer is the most advanced stage of cancer in which the disease has spread to the adjacent lymph nodes and also to other parts of the body like the liver, lungs, the abdominal wall and sometimes even the ovary. This form of colon cancer was formerly known as Dukes D colon cancer.
Stage 4 colon cancer can be of two types.
• Stage 4A in which the cancer spreads through the walls of the colon and affects the nearby organs and the lymph nodes and also a distant organ such as the lungs, liver or the ovary.
• Stage 4B in which the cancer spreads through the walls of the colon to the nearby organs or lymph nodes and also to more than one organ which is not near the colon. It can even spread to the lining of the walls of the abdomen.
Stage 4 colon cancer survival rate
Since the cancer spreads to other organs from the colon the survival rate of those suffering from stage 4 colon cancer is only twenty to thirty percent. In most cases a patient with this form of cancer can survive up to five years with aggressive therapy. The survival rate is rather low without therapy. If the cancer has spread to the internal organs it is difficult to remove and the life expectancy is even lower.
Many of the symptoms experienced by those who have been diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer are quite similar to the symptoms of other types of colon cancer such as:
• Changes in the bowel habits
• Rectal bleeding
• Obstruction in the passage of the stool
Other than these common symptoms, those suffering from stage 4 colon cancer may also experience pain as the cancer may have spread to the bones. This pain can be quite severe and localized.
Another symptom experienced by patients of stage 4 colon cancer is an unexpected and sudden weight loss.
A shortness of breath will occur if the cancer has spread to the lungs. Jaundice and abdominal swelling may be experienced if the liver is affected by stage 4 colon cancer.
Stage 4 colon cancer treatment
It is not easy to cure stage 4 colon cancer. Normally a combination of treatment procedures is used.
• The most common treatment for stage 4 colon cancer is surgery where the primary tumor and the cancer cells are removed. This depends on the extent the cancer has spread and the location of the tumor. In most cases this treatment does not cure the cancer but helps prolong life and also minimizes the symptoms.
• The cancer cells in the colon and the other areas may be shrunk by chemotherapy and then removed by surgery. In other cases the cancer cells remaining after the surgery may be killed through chemotherapy.
• The symptoms can be reduced through operations if the cancer is too wide spread. Though the cancer cannot be cured by this method it can help the patient lead a more comfortable life.
• Blockages in the colon can be removed and a colostomy performed to restore the bowel functions of those suffering from stage 4 colon cancer.
Lifestyle and heredity factors such as old age, a high fat and low fiber diet, obesity, a lack of exercise and a family history of colon cancer can put a person at risk of getting stage 4 colon cancer.