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Colorectal Cancer, Metastatic or Recurrent (cont.)


Some people who have metastatic or recurrent colorectal cancer do not have any symptoms for some time. When symptoms do appear, the most common ones 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.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Constant tiredness (fatigue).

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

  • The lymph nodes of your abdomen, it may cause bloating, a swollen belly, loss of appetite, or a feeling of fullness.
  • The liver, it may cause pain on the upper right side of your abdomen, bloating, loss of appetite, or a feeling of fullness.
  • The lungs, it may cause coughing, spitting up blood, or a hard time breathing.
  • The bones, it may cause bone pain, especially in the back, hips, and pelvis.
  • The brain, it may cause problems with memory, concentration, balance, or movement.

What Happens

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 (benign) polyps in the large intestineClick here to see an illustration. (colon or rectum). Colon polyps are common and most do not cause problems. But if polyps are not detected and removed, some of them can turn into cancer.

If the cancer is allowed to continue growing, it eventually 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.

Metastatic or recurrent colorectal cancer occurs when cancer cells travel, through either the bloodstream or the lymph system, to other parts of the body and continue to grow in their new location. Recurrent colorectal cancer occurs when the cancer begins to grow again months or years after treatment.

How colorectal cancer will affect your life span depends on the stage of your cancer. A cancer's stage depends on how far it has spread.

The 5-year survival rate for people with colorectal cancer that has spread to nearby organs or lymph nodes is 68%.1 This means that 68 out of 100 people are still alive 5 years or longer after their cancer was discovered. For people who have colorectal cancer that has spread farther away to other parts of their bodies, the rate is 11%. This means that 11 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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