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Survival Rates for Colon Cancer

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 8/31/2010

Colon cancer affects the part of the large intestine that lies between the cecum and rectum. Colon cancer survivability depends on several factors, including the type of treatment used and how advanced the cancer was at the time of diagnosis.

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    Colorectal cancer is a very common cancer and is regarded in the United States as relatively curable when diagnosed and treated early, but when it is not caught early, it is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths, according to the American Cancer Society. Almost all cases of colon cancer begin as benign polyps that gradually turn malignant. Colon cancer survivability depends on several factors, such as when the diagnosis was made, type of colon cancer, stage at diagnosis, whether treatment was timely, type of treatment, patient's overall health, and other patient-dependent factors.

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    What is the Five-Year Survival Rate?

    This refers to the fact that most patients who are diagnosed and treated early live for at least five years after they are diagnosed. If the cancer has spread, this rate drops significantly. If this cancer does not recur within those five years, it is deemed cured. When the cancer is caught in stages one, two, or three, there is potential for it being cured. However, most patients who are diagnosed in stage four cannot be cured.

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    Five-Year Statistics in the United States

    There are statistics available concerning colon cancer survivability for each stage. Five-year survival statistics are as follows:

    • Stage 1 colon cancer has a 93 percent survival rate.
    • Stage 2A colon cancer has an 85 percent survival rate.
    • Stage 2B colon cancer has a 72 percent survival rate.
    • Stage 3A colon cancer has an 83 percent survival rate.
    • Stage 3B colon cancer has a 64 percent survival rate.
    • Stage 3C colon cancer has a 44 percent survival rate.
    • Stage 4 colon cancer has an 8 percent survival rate.

    These statistics show that stage 3A has a higher chance of survival than stage 2B, though 3A is a later stage which usually translates to a lower chance of survival. The reasoning behind this is that patients with stage 3A colon cancer are administered chemotherapy while most stage 2B colon cancer patients are not administered chemotherapy.

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    Factors Affecting Prognosis

    There are factors that can affect a patient's prognosis. Some of the most significant factors are the location of the cancer, the type of colon cancer, and what stage the cancer is diagnosed at. Other factors include:

    • General health
    • Age
    • Response to treatment

    Patients have to keep in mind that when their doctor gives them a prognosis, it is just a prediction that the doctor makes based on his or her personal knowledge, statistics, how easy or difficult the cancer will be to control, the factors affecting prognosis, and several other things available to make a prognosis. No doctor can give a patient an absolute outcome.

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    Resources

    Myers, D. (2006). Colon Cancer Survival Statistics for the US. Retrieved on August 25, 2010 from About.com (medically reviewed): http://coloncancer.about.com/od/cancerstatistics/a/US_Survival_CC.htm

    MedlinePlus. (2009). Colon Cancer. Retrieved on August 25, 2010 from MedlinePlus: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000262.htm

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