Stage 4 colon cancer is considered advanced: cancer has spread beyond your colon to distant organs. Treatment may involve a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or ablation.
According to the
The goal of treating stage 4 colon cancer is to prolong and improve your quality of life. Very rarely can treatment cure stage 4 colon cancer.
The treatments used depends on the location, grade, and size of the tumors that have spread beyond your colon. Doctors may recommend a combination of surgery, chemotherapy,
In this article, we take a closer look at how stage 4 colon cancer is classified, along with your treatment options and outlook.
Facts about colon cancer
- An estimated
106,970 people will receive a diagnosis of colon cancerin the United States in 2023.
- Your risk of developing colon cancer gets higher as you get older. Other risk factors include eating a low-fiber, high-fat diet, drinking alcohol, and smoking.
- The median age to receive a diagnosis of colon cancer is 68 years old in people assigned male at birth and 72 years old in people assigned female at birth.
most cases, colon cancers are slow growing and develop over many years. People often receive the diagnosis at the later stages when symptoms present. Regular screeningfor colon cancer is an excellent way to find colon cancer early. The best time to start screening is when you’re 45 years old.
In stage 4 colon cancer, the cancer has spread from your colon to other areas of your body through your lymphatic and blood circulatory systems. Doctors call this spread “metastasis.” The severity of this stage is dependent on where the cancer has metastasized.
Doctors also grade cancers to help determine your treatment and outlook.
A grade is determined by what the cancer cells look like under a microscope. It’s a way of classifying how aggressive a cancer may be. For example:
- Grade 1 (low grade): The cancer cells are well differentiated, or slow growing.
- Grade 2 (intermediate grade): The cancer cells are moderately differentiated, or intermediate growing.
- Grade 3 (high grade): The cancer cells are poorly differentiated, or fast growing.
Is stage 4 colon cancer curable?
Treatment for stage 4 colon cancer focuses on prolonging and and improving your quality of life. The goal is usually not to cure stage 4 colon cancer, except in very, very rare instances. It’s important to have an open discussion with a doctor to better understand your cancer and the goals of your treatment.
Doctors who specialize in cancer treatments are called oncologists. They’ll work with you to create a treatment plan that works best for you.
The type of treatment your oncologist may recommend depends on the location, grade, and size of the tumors inside and outside of your colon. If the areas of cancer spread are small, surgery can help you to live longer and may improve your quality of life.
If the cancer is
Chemotherapy before or after surgery
A doctor may suggest chemotherapy after surgery. This is called adjuvant chemotherapy. Adjuvant therapy helps lower the chance that the cancer will return and potentially improves the outcome of your surgery. Cancer cells can sometimes be left behind after surgery, and adjuvant therapy helps remove them from your bloodstream or lymphatic system.
If the cancer spread is large, or there are simply too many sites, doctors may suggest chemotherapy before surgery. This is called neoadjuvant chemotherapy. If the tumors respond to chemotherapy and shrink in size, then surgery may be able to remove them.
If stage 4 colon cancer has spread to your liver, then
An oncologist may recommend
Targeted therapy can be used alongside chemotherapy or by itself if the chemotherapy isn’t working.
According to the
A 5-year relative survival rate of 13% means that someone with stage 4 colon cancer is 13% as likely to live for 5 years as someone without colon cancer.
The table below shows relative survival rates from the
|SEER stage||5-year relative survival rate|
|Localized: There’s no sign that the cancer has spread outside your colon or rectum.||91%|
|Regional: The cancer has spread outside your colon or rectum to nearby tissues or lymph nodes.||72%|
|Distant: The cancer has spread to distant parts of your body.||13%|
|Combined: This consists of all SEER stages.||63%|
Factors affecting your outlook
It’s worth noting that survival rates don’t consider other factors that may affect how you respond to treatment. These include:
- Age and health: Your age and health at the time of receiving the diagnosis can affect how you respond to treatment. With older age, your risk of developing colon cancer
increases, as does your risk of mortality.
- Weight: Being overweight can influence the outcome of your treatment. This is due to the increase in conditions such as type 2 diabetes and higher inflammation levels.
- Smoking: Smoking not only increases your risk of developing any kind of cancer but can also affect your treatment outcomes. According to a 2018 study, people who stopped smoking during treatment for colorectal cancer had improved overall survival rates.
With treatments constantly improving and advancing,
Stage 4 colon cancer is late stage. Treatment typically focuses on prolonging and improving your quality of life, rather than trying to cure the cancer.
The treatments that doctors use depend on the location, grade, and size of tumors that have spread beyond your colon. Options include surgery, chemotherapy, ablation, and targeted therapy. Palliative care may also be considered.
In the United States, the 5-year relative survival rate for stage 4 colon cancer is 13%. Your oncologist will provide you with a more personalized outlook depending on your particular situation.