What Is Metastatic Colorectal Cancer?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2018
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Metastatic colorectal cancer refers to cancer which begins in the colon or rectum and which spreads to another part of the body. Metastasis refers to the migration of cancerous cells from one part of the body to another. This could mean it has moved to nearby areas, such as the lymph nodes in the groin, or to areas farther away within the body.

Colon cancer is one of the most common and most deadly forms of cancer. It is a leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States and other industrialized nations. Many times it begins as a small tumor within the colon or rectum. This mass grows larger over time, and eventually cells can begin to spread to other parts of the body. Once any type of cancer has spread, it becomes much harder to treat than localized cancers.

One reason why metastatic colorectal cancer is so prominent is because the early stages of the disease often have few or no symptoms. Many patients do not realize they have cancer until it caught during a routine colonoscopy or during an exam for another health condition. By this time, it is more likely that cancer may have spread to other areas.


Stage one colorectal cancer is still confined to the colon or rectum. This is the easiest to treat and survival rates are generally much better for early stage cancers. Metastatic colorectal cancer is that which has moved beyond the primary area and into the surround lymph nodes, bones, or other organs. Later staged cancers are generally much more difficult to treat.

Metastatic colorectal cancer is often very aggressive once it begins to spread farther away from the primary location. Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments may be used to halt its progression, although this is often unsuccessful as a long-term solution. Occasionally, widespread cancer will be contained and it may go into remission. Survival times after diagnosis vary widely depending on how far and to which areas of the body the cancer has spread.

To avoid metastatic colorectal cancer, it is important for those who are aged 45 to 50 and older to get routine exams for colon cancer. Colorectal cancers are much more common in those who are over 45 than in young individuals. Eating a diet rich in fiber and staying adequately hydrated are the best ways to prevent cancer of the colon or rectum.



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