Last-Stage Colon Cancer: Symptom, Treatment and Outlook

Colon cancer is divided into 4 stages based on how much cancer has spread to nearby organs as well as to distant organs within the human body. It is the last stage (stage 4) of cancer when it has already spread to other parts of the body. This type of cancer mostly spreads to the liver, lungs, peritoneum, brain and distant lymph nodes. As it is the last stage of colon cancer, stage 4 is very hard to treat, with a poor outlook as well. However, some treatment options are available.

Symptoms of Stage 4 Colon Cancer

As mentioned, this is the last stage with a poor outlook. Many are diagnosed at this stage as there are no signs and symptoms at all. For this reason, it is very important to perform routine screening tests as recommended by your healthcare provider in order to catch this type of cancer in its early stages when there are many treatment options available and where the outlook is much better compared to stage 4.

Common signs and symptoms of colon cancer regardless at what stage include:

  • Blood in the stool – the stool will have a dark red or black color.
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Diarrhea altered with constipation
  • Long and thin stools that look like a pencil
  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Nausea and vomiting due to an obstruction

If the colon cancer has spread to the liver, the following signs and symptoms may appear:

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Swelling of the legs
  • Weight loss
  • Itching
  • Jaundice, yellowing of the skin and eye whites, etc.

If the colon cancer has spread to the lungs, the following signs and symptoms may appear:

  • A persistent cough
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulties breathing
  • Presence of blood in the mucus
  • Weight loss, etc.

If the colon cancer has spread to the peritoneum, the following signs and symptoms may appear:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss or even weight gain, etc.

If the colon cancer has spread to the bones, the following signs and symptoms may appear:

  • Constipation altered with diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Numbness
  • Weakness in the legs and arms
  • Pain in the neck
  • Pain in the back
  • Bone pain
  • Bone fractures, etc.

Diagnosing Colon Cancer

A detailed medical history, as well as, a complete physical examination is the key standard when diagnosing a certain medical condition, including colon cancer. If your healthcare provider based on your signs and symptoms suspects a colon cancer, other tests and examinations are recommended, such as:

  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Chest X-ray
  • CT-scan
  • MRI
  • Colonoscopy
  • Biopsy, etc.

Treatment Options of Stage 4 Colon Cancer

Surgery

Surgery is unlikely to cure this cancer, but if there are only a few small metastasis to the liver or lungs, then they can be surgically removed along with the colon cancer, to increase the survival period as much as possible.

Before and after a surgical treatment, chemotherapy is also recommended, which aims to shrink the tumor. If surgical treatment is not possible, neoadjuvant chemotherapy is recommended and if with this type of chemotherapy cancer shrinks, then a surgical removal of cancer might be recommended. Chemotherapy is recommended after the surgery as well.

In cases when the tumor has spread to the liver, embolization or ablation of the tumor might be recommended, as another option to destroy the metastasis.

Chemotherapy

If the colon cancer has spread too much in various organs and tissues within the body, then surgical treatment is not an option. In these cases, the main treatment is chemotherapy. In terminal phases of stage 4 colon cancer, certain surgical procedures such as colectomy or diverting colostomy, or a placement of a stent during a colonoscopy might be performed. However, all these above-mentioned surgical treatments don’t aim to cure cancer, but they only aim to relieve the signs of colon cancer.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is also recommended as part of the last-stage colon cancer treatment. Radiation therapy aims to shrink the tumor in order to prevent or relieve the signs and symptoms of colon cancer. You should keep in mind that radiation therapy does not cure cancer.

Clinical Trials

If you have already tried a couple of the above-mentioned treatment options for last-stage colon cancer and they didn’t provide the desired results, there is always another option such as a clinical trial.

In clinical trials, scientists look for new treatment options for colon cancer. These clinical trials test new treatments and medications to see if they are successful and safe. Consult your healthcare provider as he/she will tell you if you are a good candidate for such clinical trial.

What Is the Outlook of Stage 4 Colon Cancer?

The last-stage colon cancer has a 5-year survival rate of about 13 %. This means that only about 13 % of all patients diagnosed with this type and stage of cancer will live more than 5 years after being diagnosed.

However, these are just numbers and every person is unique. No one can tell you for sure how long you will live. The outlook of colon cancer depends on many factors such as age, overall health, where the colon cancer has spread, what treatments you got, etc.

With the new advances in treatment and technology, the outlook of colon cancer is slowly improving. 

 
 
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