The Stages of Rectal Cancer

If your doctor learns that you do have rectal cancer, more tests will be done to see if the cancer has spread. This is called staging. A variety of diagnostic tests and procedures may be used in the staging process. These can include CT or MRI scans of the abdomen, pelvic area, chest, or brain. Sometimes, PET scans are also used.

Stages of rectal cancer are:

  • Stage 0: Abnormal cells are fully contained in the innermost lining (mucosa) of the rectum, and have not yet invaded the wall of the colon
  • Stage I: Cancer has spread through the mucosa of the rectum into middle layers of tissue.
  • Stage II: In stage IIA, the cancer has spread beyond the middle layers to the outer tissues of the rectum. In stage IIB, the cancer has penetrated through the rectum wall into nearby tissue or organs.
  • Stage III: Cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. Stage IIIA and IIIB cancer has spread to as many as three lymph nodes. Stage IIIC cancer involves four or more lymph nodes.
  • Stage IV: Cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes and to other organs of the body such as the liver or lungs.

Blood tests to detect tumor markers, including carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) and CA 19-9, may help your physician follow you during and after treatment.

Source: A.D.A.M. Multimedia Encyclopedia: Colon cancer

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