Cancer is the growth of abnormal cells in the body. These extra cells grow together and form masses, called tumors. In colorectal cancer, these growths usually start as polyps in the Reference large intestine Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window (colon or rectum). Reference Colon polyps Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window are quite common. But if they are not detected and removed, the polyps may turn into cancer.
Cancers in the colon or rectum usually grow very slowly. It takes most of them years to become large enough to cause symptoms. If the cancer is allowed to grow, it eventually will invade and destroy nearby tissues and then spread farther. Colorectal cancer spreads first to nearby Reference lymph nodes Opens New Window. From there it may spread to other parts of the body, usually the liver. It may also spread to the lungs, and less often, to other organs in the body.
The long-term outcome, or prognosis, for colorectal cancer depends on how much the cancer has grown and spread. Experts talk about prognosis in terms of "5-year survival rates." The 5-year survival rate means the percentage of people who are still alive 5 years or longer after their cancer was discovered. It is important to remember that these are only averages. Everyone's case is different. And these numbers do not necessarily show what will happen to you. The estimated 5-year survival rate for colorectal cancer is:Reference 1
- 90% or more if cancer is found early and treated before it has spread. This means that 90 or more out of 100 people will still be alive in 5 years if the cancer is found early and treated before it has spread.
- 69% if the cancer has spread to nearby organs and lymph nodes. This means that 69 out of 100 people will still be alive in 5 years if the cancer has spread to nearby organs and lymph nodes.
- 12% if the cancer has spread to the liver, lungs, or bones. This means that 12 out of 100 people will still be alive in 5 years if the cancer has spread to the liver, lungs, or other organs in the body.
These numbers are taken from reports that were done at least 5 years ago, before newer treatments were available. So the actual chances of your survival are likely to be higher than these numbers.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference October 22, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Reference Kenneth Bark, MD - Surgery, Colon and Rectal