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Colorectal Cancer, Metastatic or Recurrent (cont.)


The most common symptoms are:

  • A change in bowel habits, such as narrow stools or frequent diarrhea or constipation.
  • Blood in the stool, or stools that look like black tar.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Pain in the belly, especially gas pains, cramps, or a feeling of fullness.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Constant tiredness (fatigue).

Some people don't have any symptoms for some time.

If your cancer has spread, you may have other symptoms, depending on where the cancer is.

What Happens

How cancer grows and spreads

Cancer is the growth of abnormal cells in the body. These extra cells grow together and form masses, lumps, or tumors. In colorectal cancer, these growths usually start as harmless polypsClick here to see an illustration. in the large intestineClick here to see an illustration.. If polyps are not found and removed, some of them can turn into cancer.

If the cancer is allowed to keep growing, over time it will invade and destroy nearby tissues and then spread farther.

  • Colon cancer often spreads first to nearby lymph nodes. From there it may spread to other parts of the body, usually to the liver. It may also spread to the lungs, bones, or other organs in the body.
  • Rectal cancer may spread directly to the lungs, bypassing the liver.

Recurrent colorectal cancer occurs when the cancer begins to grow again months or years after treatment.

Survival rates

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." This means the percentage of people who are still alive 5 years or longer after their cancer was found. It is important to remember that these are only averages. Everyone's case is different. And these numbers don't necessarily show what will happen to you.

The 5-year survival rate:

  • Is 69% for people whose cancer has spread to nearby organs or lymph nodes.1 This means that about 69 out of 100 people are still alive 5 years or longer after their cancer was discovered.
  • Is 12% for people whose cancer has spread farther away to other parts of their bodies. 1 This means that about 12 out of 100 people are still alive 5 years or longer after their cancer was discovered.

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.

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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