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Colon Cancer has a super high survival rate if caught early

Screening can often find colorectal cancer early, when it’s small, hasn’t spread, and might be easier to treat. Regular screening can even prevent colorectal cancer. A polyp can take as many as 10 to 15 years to develop into cancer. With screening, doctors can find and remove polyps before they have the chance to turn into cancer.

Survival Rates for Colorectal Cancer

Survival rates can give you an idea of what percentage of people with the same type and stage of cancer are still alive a certain amount of time (usually 5 years) after they were diagnosed. They can’t tell you how long you will live, but they may help give you a better understanding of how likely it is that your treatment will be successful.

Keep in mind that survival rates are estimates and are often based on previous outcomes of large numbers of people who had a specific cancer, but they can’t predict what will happen in any particular person’s case. These statistics can be confusing and may lead you to have more questions. Talk with your doctor about how these numbers may apply to you, as he or she is familiar with your situation.

What is a 5-year relative survival rate?

A relative survival rate compares people with the same type and stage of cancer to people in the overall population. For example, if the 5-year relative survival rate for a specific stage of colon or rectal cancer is 80%, it means that people who have that cancer are, on average, about 80% as likely as people who don’t have that cancer to live for at least 5 years after being diagnosed.

Where do these numbers come from?

The American Cancer Society relies on information from the SEER* database, maintained by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), to provide survival statistics for different types of cancer.

*SEER = Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results

The SEER database tracks 5-year relative survival rates for colon and rectal cancer in the United States, based on how far the cancer has spread. The SEER database, however, does not group cancers by AJCC TNM stages (stage 1, stage 2, stage 3, etc.). Instead, it groups cancers into localized, regional, and distant stages:

  • Localized: There is no sign that the cancer has spread outside of the colon or rectum.
  • Regional: The cancer has spread outside the colon or rectum to nearby structures or lymph nodes.
  • Distant: The cancer has spread to distant parts of the body such as the liver, lungs, or distant lymph nodes.

5-year relative survival rates for colon cancer

These numbers are based on people diagnosed with cancers of the colon between 2010 and 2016.

SEER Stages with their 5-year survival rates:

  • Localized: 91%
  • Regional: 72%
  • Distant: 14%
  • All SEER stages combined: 63%

5-year relative survival rates for rectal cancer

These numbers are based on people diagnosed with cancers of the rectum between 2010 and 2016.

SEER Stages with their 5-year survival rates:

  • Localized: 89%
  • Regional: 72%
  • Distant: 16%
  • All SEER stages combined: 67%

Understanding the numbers

  • These numbers apply only to the stage of the cancer when it is first diagnosed. They do not apply later on if the cancer grows, spreads, or comes back after treatment.
  • These numbers don’t take everything into account. Survival rates are grouped based on how far the cancer has spread, but your age, overall health, how well the cancer responds to treatment, whether the cancer started on the left or right side of the colon, and other factors can also affect your outlook.
  • People now being diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer may have a better outlook than these numbers show. Treatments improve over time, and these numbers are based on people who were diagnosed and treated at least five years earlier.

Don’t hesitate!

Having regular colonoscopies allows doctors to find and remove pre-cancerous or cancerous polyps before they begin to affect the colon or rectum. Regular colonoscopies also allow cancer to be found when it’s small and easy to treat. Treatment for colon cancer is mainly determined by how far it has spread (cancer stage). If colon cancer hasn’t spread outside of the colon lining (Stage 0), it’s easiest to treat and usually only requires surgery to remove polyps or cut out the affected area of the colon.

Stage I colon cancers have grown deeper into the layers of the colon wall, but they have not spread outside the colon wall itself or into the nearby lymph nodes.

Stage I includes cancers that were part of a polyp. If the polyp is removed completely during colonoscopy, with no cancer cells at the edges (margins) of the removed piece, no other treatment may be needed.

If you have one or more risk factors, if you’re at average risk and it’s been 10 years since your last colonoscopy (1 to 5 years for other tests), or if you’re experiencing symptoms of colorectal cancer, schedule a colonoscopy screening today.

Gastroenterology Consultants of San Antonio takes a comprehensive and collaborative approach to healthcare. Our physicians specialize in all aspects of gastroenterology, and we work closely with other specialists — including primary care physicians, surgeons, oncologists, and radiologists — to create an individualized care plan just for you.

Comfort and digestive health await you at Gastroenterology Consultants of San Antonio.

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Source: American Cancer Society

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