Staging Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer can grow beyond the colon or rectum. In time, it can grow into nearby organs or spread to nearby called lymph nodes. Cancer cells can also travel to other parts of the body. This is known as metastasis. Staging cancer determines whether it has spread, and if so, how far. Knowing the cancer stage helps the healthcare provider make the best treatment plan. Colorectal cancer has four main stages, based on the location of the tumor. Staging may be done before or after surgery.

Cross section of colon and lymph nodes, showing cancer inside colon.

 

Stage I: Cancer found only in the colon or rectum lining.

Cross section of colon and lymph nodes showing cancer spreading through wall of colon but not to lymph nodes.

 

Stage II: Cancer has spread outside the colon or rectum (sometimes to nearby tissue or organs), but not to lymph nodes.

Cross section of colon and lymph nodes showing cancer spreading through wall of colon and to lymph nodes.

 

Stage III: Cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, but not to other parts of the body.

Outline of body showing digestive and respiratory tracts, with arrows showing spread of cancer.

 

Stage IV: Cancer cells have traveled to distant organs such as the lungs and liver.



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