Colorectal CancerColorectal Cancer Stages

Let's Talk About Colorectal Cancer Stages

If you've been diagnosed with this disease, your path forward will depend largely on how far along the cancer is. Learn more about the different stages, and how it affects the types of treatments you may receive.

    Our Pro PanelColorectal Cancer Stages

    We went to some of the nation's top experts in colorectal cancer to bring you the most up-to-date information possible.

    Leonid Cherkassky, M.D.

    Leonid Cherkassky, M.D.Assistant Professor of Oncology

    Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center
    Buffalo, NY
    Gautam Mankaney, M.D.

    Gautam Mankaney, M.D.Gastroenterologist

    Cleveland Clinic
    Cleveland, OH
    Eduardo Vilar-Sanchez, M.D., Ph.D.

    Eduardo Vilar-Sanchez, M.D., Ph.D.Associate Professor of Clinical Cancer Prevention

    The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
    Houston, TX

    Frequently Asked QuestionsColorectal Cancer Stages

    How does colon cancer spread?

    Colon cancer spreads in three ways. The tumor can grow through the wall of the colon and into nearby tissue. Cancer cells can travel via your bloodstream to another part of the body. They can also get into the lymph system—the body’s lesser-known second circulatory system.

    What do the staging numbers and letters mean?

    When colon cancer is staged, it’s given a number, from 0 through IV; the lower the number, the less the cancer has spread. In addition, letters are used to subdivide the stages—so there’s a stage IIA, IIB, and IIC. The earlier in the alphabet the letter, the less advanced the cancer.

    How long can you live with colon cancer?

    Statistically, people with stage I cancer have a 90% chance of living for at least another five years. If you've been diagnosed with stage IV cancer, your odds of living another five years drop to 14%. Remember, these are averages; how your body responds to treatment is unique to you.

    How is the CEA test used?

    For some people, CEA testing can be used to help monitor the effectiveness of treatment. It’s most useful in people whose levels of CEA are elevated before treatment and fall when they go into remission. In these cases, CEA monitoring can act as an early-warning system for cancer recurrence.

    Lisa Davis

    Lisa Davis

    A health reporter and editor in New York, Lisa Davis has contributed to numerous outlets, including Health, O, the Oprah Magazine, Vogue, Science News, and others.