Medical Q&As

Colon cancer - prognosis?

What is the prognosis for someone with cancer of the colon? The patient has had the colon removed. She has developed pneumonia and is very weak. We are having a hard time getting any straight answers from the doctor.

The prognosis for cancer of the colon is subject to several variables. Age is a consideration. Colon cancer is uncommon in those under forty years of age and tends to be associated with a poorer prognosis. Another consideration is that people who donít have symptoms at the time of diagnosis tend to have a better prognosis. The location of the cancer in the colon is another important consideration. For example cancers located in the rectum tend to have a poorer prognosis. It is interesting to note that the size of the cancer does not have a significant effect on the prognosis. The personís general state of health at the time of diagnosis and their previous medical history are additional factors that have to be taken into account. However, one of the most important considerations with regard to prognosis is the stage of the cancer at the time of diagnosis. The Dukes classification is one of the most widely used systems for staging for cancer of the colon. Dukes stage A refers to cancer that is confined within the wall of the colon. Dukes stage B refers to cancer that has spread into the tissues immediately adjacent to the wall of the colon and Dukes stage C refers to cancer that has spread further to involve the lymph nodes. As a general rule those with Dukes stage A have a 90% five year survival rate whereas those with Dukes stage C have between a 25 to 50% five year survival rate. In other words 90% of those with Dukes stage A will be alive five years after diagnosis. In general terms if a person survives five years after the diagnosis has been made it is reasonable to conclude that the disease has been eliminated. In summary, prognosis for colon cancer depends on a number of factors with the staging of the cancer at the time of diagnosis being the most important consideration.