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13

NCCN Guidelines for Patients

®

:

Colon Cancer, Version 1.2017

Cancer stage

A cancer stage is a rating by your doctors of the

extent of the cancer. It is used to plan which tests

may be needed and which treatments are best

for you. The AJCC (

A

merican

J

oint

C

ommittee

on

C

ancer) staging system is used to stage colon

cancer.

In the AJCC system, the letters T, N, and M describe

the areas of cancer growth. The T score describes

the growth of the primary tumor. The N score

describes nearby cancer growth within the colon or

lymph nodes. The M score tells if the cancer has

spread to distant sites.

The T, N, and M scores are combined to assign

the cancer a stage. There are five stages of colon

cancer. They are numbered 0, I (1), II (2), III (3), or IV

(4). The stages are defined as:

Stage 0

These cancers are also called carcinoma in situ of

the colon. The cancer has not grown beyond the first

layer of the colon wall. It is a noninvasive cancer.

More treatment may not be needed if all the cancer

was removed during an endoscopic polypectomy.

Stage I

The cancer has grown into either the second or third

layer of the colon wall. There is no cancer in nearby

or distant sites.

Stage II

The cancer has grown into the fourth layer of or

outside the colon wall. There is no cancer in nearby

or distant sites.

Stage III

The cancer has spread from the colon to nearby

lymph nodes or there are tumor deposits. Tumor

deposits are small secondary tumors within the

colon.

Stage IV

The colon cancer has spread to distant organs.

Common distant sites include your liver and lungs.

Rating of the cancer stage is often done twice. The

first rating is based on tests before treatment and is

called the clinical stage. Exactly how far the cancer

has spread and how many lymph nodes have cancer

may not be known until after surgery. Thus, your

doctors will rate the cancer again after surgery. This

rating is called the pathologic stage.

Review

†

†

The colon absorbs water from unused food in

the body.

†

†

The wall of the colon has four layers.

†

†

Colon cancer is a cancer of cells that line the

inner colon wall and make mucus.

†

†

Cancer cells form a tumor since they don’t grow

and die as normal cells do.

†

†

Cancer cells can spread to other body parts

through lymph or blood.

†

†

Most colon cancers start in polyps.

†

†

The cancer stage is a rating by doctors of the

extent of cancer.

1

Colon cancer basics

Cancer stage

|

Review