What Are the Stages of Colon and Rectal Cancer?

When doctors talk about the “stage” of your disease, that’s based on how far it has spread through the walls of the colon or rectum and whether it’s now in other parts of the body, too.

Your doctor will consider your cancer’s stage when she recommends what treatments are best for you. The stage also helps your cancer care team to know if your cancer gets better with treatment.

Stage 0 Colon Cancer

This is the earliest stage. The cancer is found only in the innermost lining of the colon.

Learn about treatments for stage 0 colon cancer.

Stage 1 (I) Colon Cancer

The cancer has spread beyond the innermost lining of the colon to the second and third layers and involves the colon’s inside wall. But it hasn’t spread to the outer wall or outside the colon.

Find out about treatments for stage I colon cancer.

Stage 2 (II) Colon Cancer

The tumor extends through the muscular wall of the colon and may also have invaded/adhered to nearby organs.

But there is no cancer in the lymph nodes, which are small structures throughout the body that make and store cells that fight infection.

Learn about treatments for stage II colon cancer.

Stage 3 (III) Colon Cancer

The cancer has spread outside the colon to one or more lymph nodes.

Learn more about treatments for stage III colon cancer.

Stage 4 (IV) Colon Cancer

The cancer has spread outside the colon to other parts of the body, such as the liver or the lungs. The tumor can be any size. It may or may not include affected lymph nodes.

Get information about treatments for stage IV colon cancer.

Staging Rectal Cancer

Rectal cancer is staged much the same way as colon cancer, but because the tumor is much lower down in the colon, the treatment options may vary.

Stage 0 Rectal Cancer

The tumor is only on the inner lining of the rectum.

To treat this early stage cancer, a surgeon can remove the tumor or a small section of the rectum where the cancer is.

Learn more about treatments for stage 0 rectal cancer.

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Stage 1 (I) Rectal Cancer

This is an early form or limited form of cancer. The tumor has broken through the inner lining of the rectum. But it hasn’t gone past the muscular wall.

Find out about treatment for stage I rectal cancer.

Stage 2 (II) Rectal Cancer

The tumor has gone all the way through the bowel wall and may now be in other nearby organs, such as the bladder, uterus, or prostate gland.

Read about the treatments for stage II rectal cancer.

Stage 3 (III) Rectal Cancer

The tumor has spread to the lymph nodes, which are small structures throughout the body that make and store cells that fight infection.

Get information about treatments for stage III rectal cancer.

Stage 4 (IV) Rectal Cancer

The tumor has spread (metastasized) to distant parts of the body. It may be any size. The liver and lungs are places where rectal cancer often spreads.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on October 25, 2017

Sources

SOURCE: 

American Cancer Society.

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