Colorectal cancer grows in the lining of the colon or rectum and is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in the United States, affecting over 100,000 people yearly. The American Cancer Society estimates that 1 in 23-25 people will be diagnosed with colon cancer at some point in their lifetime. That’s a lot if we consider that colon cancer is commonly seen as an aggressive type of cancer with a high mortality rate. But is that true? Is colon cancer as aggressive and dangerous as they say?
In this article, we will explore some statistics on colon cancer and answer these and other questions. What is the survival rate of the disease? And how can you improve the outcome of colon cancer? We will talk a bit about colon cancer screening and mention some modifications doctors make in colon cancer screening indications when patients are at risk of cancer or have a higher risk of aggressive disease.
Colon cancer 5-year survival rate
Survival rate refers to the chance of survival when you are already diagnosed with a disease, in this case, colon cancer. It is measured in time so that we can have a different survival rate at five years, ten years, and 15 years.
The survival rate of colon cancer is affected by numerous factors, including the stage of the disease, age, gender, and overall health of the patient. But then, statistics are joined to obtain a number representing a very heterogeneous group. So, the colon cancer survival rate may change in your case, and it is not an accurate prediction of what will happen in the future.
The 5-year survival rate for colon cancer is 65 percent. It means that after being diagnosed with colon cancer, 65 people out of 100 are still alive after five years. However, there are some variations we may want to look out for:
- When cancer is at a localized stage, the 5-year survival rate increases to 91%. A localized phase is when cancer has not spread to other organs. It’s not nearby or located in distant organs (metastasis). So, you can see that the survival rate is very high when cancer is still enclosed in a capsule. That’s why doctors put such an emphasis on prevention and screening, even if you don’t have symptoms initially, because only 37% of patients are diagnosed in these early stages of the disease, and they could be more if they screened for colon cancer.
- When cancer has already spread, but such spread is localized around the tumor and nearby tissues, the 5-year survival rate is 72%. It’s lower than localized prostate cancer but still higher than the joint average. This is an intermediate stage of prostate cancer, and 36% of patients are diagnosed in this phase.
- When cancer is spread to nearby and distant tissues, the survival rate is very low. In 5 years, only 15% of these patients are still alive despite undergoing treatment because there is already metastasis, and it is difficult to predict where metastasis will show up and how it will respond to medical treatment. These patients can have one big metastatic tumor in tissues such as the lungs or the liver, or they can be multiple tumors. Depending on the case, doctors could adopt the approach or surgically remove cancer, and if there is only one or a few of them, the survival rate may increase.
Other variations have to do with the location of colon cancer. So, depending on where it is located, the survival rate may increase or decrease:
- When the tumor is located in the colon, the survival rate after five years is 64%. The colon is the large intestine and has an ascending, transverse, and descending section. It includes a small area called the sigmoid colon or pelvic colon, which connects the gut to the rectum. The survival rate increases to 91% if the disease is caught early and to 72% if there is a localized spread of cancer. But the 5-year survival rate is only 14% in patients with distant spread or metastasis.
- When the tumor is located in the rectum, the survival rate after five years is slightly higher, 67%. It increases to 90% when cancer is caught in an early stage and to 73% when there’s already a localized spread of cancer. However, the 5-year survival rate is only 17% in patients with distant spread or metastasis.