is stage 4 colon cancer curable?
knowing the burden of this disease
by Jamal Ross
We know that finding colon cancer at an early stage when it is most treatable can drastically improve survival rates. Prevention and screening are the best ways to fight colon cancer. If colon cancer is discovered when it has spread to other organs and body parts, this is called stage 4 metastatic colon cancer. This is the most advanced stage of colon cancer. Surgery and chemotherapy are needed to fight colon cancer at this stage. There is a sinking question: Is stage 4 colon cancer considered curable? The answer is yes! Let’s find out why.
When you meet with your doctor to devise a treatment plan for colon cancer, the goal of treatment will be to either to put the cancer in remission or cure it completely. This is called the intention of care. In other words, when you are undergoing surgery and chemotherapy, is the intention to cure the disease? With stage 4 colon cancer, there are situations where the intention of your treatment will be to cure the disease completely from the perspective of your doctor.
When colon cancer has spread to the liver, this is considered stage 4 colon cancer. In fact, the liver is the most common site where colon cancer will spread. When you have about 4 of less masses in your liver that spread from your colon, these masses can be removed with surgery with the intention of curing colon cancer. We know that the 5-year disease free survival rate for stage 4 cancer is 0 – 10%. (1). When these liver masses are removed, the 5-year survival rate shoots up to as high as 58%. (2) Unfortunately, if there are more than 4 masses in the liver, the statistics are not as favorable. As we can see, the number of masses in the body has an effect on survival from this disease. This is called the burden of metastatic disease. The higher the tumor burden, the more difficult it becomes to cure this disease from the perspective of your doctor. This highlights another important point: even with metastatic colon, catching the disease early, when the burden of metastasis is less, is essential.
At all stages of colon cancer, early detection is important. Even when colon cancer has spread to the liver, catching the spread early when there are a few masses can improve survival and change you doctors intention to put this disease into remission to curing it all together. We know God works miracles and can accomplish what is not possible with man, including your doctor. Yet, let us not attempt to put God to the test failing to be obedient to sound advice from our health professions and placing ourselves in a dangerous situation of stage 4 colon cancer with a heavy burden of metastatic disease. Let us use the wisdom of God to prevent this disease even before it reaches stage 1 by undergoing an age appropriate colonoscopy recommended by your doctor. Do what you can, and let God handle the rest.
Colon Cancer Series
1. In Alguire, P. C., & American College of Physicians, (2018). MKSAP 18: Medical knowledge self-assessment program)
2. Venook AP & Curely AS. Management of potentially resectable colorectal cancer liver metastasis. In: UpToDate, Tanabe Kenneth & Savarese MFD. (Eds), UpToDate, Waltham, MA. (Accessed on July 25, 2021.)