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A Doctor's View on Stage IV Colon Cancer That Has Spread to the Liver

Read the Comment by Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

Colon cancer has four stages. Stage IV is the most severe stage of colon cancer, and at this stage the cancer cells have spread or metastasized to other organs (for example, the lungs and lymph nodes). Examples of symptoms of colon cancer when they do occur include:

  • Blood in the stool
  • Pain in the right side of the abdomen or stomach
  • Leg swelling
  • Itching
  • Abdominal swelling

Treatment for stage IV colon cancer to the liver include surgery to remove the liver tumors, chemotherapy, radiation, radiofrequency ablation, and brachytherapy. Targeted therapies also are available.

Read the entire Doctor's View

What are the signs and symptoms of colon cancer?

Symptoms of colorectal cancer are numerous and nonspecific. They include fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, change in bowel habits, narrow stools, diarrhea or constipation, red or dark blood in stool, weight loss, abdominal pain, cramps, or bloating. Other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (spastic colon), ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, diverticulosis, and peptic ulcer disease can have symptoms that mimic colorectal cancer. For more information on these conditions, please read the following articles: Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn's Disease, Diverticulosis, and Peptic Ulcer Disease.

Colorectal cancer can be present for several years before symptoms develop. Symptoms vary according to where in the large intestine the tumor is located. The right colon is wider and more flexible. It can even be called relatively spacious as compared to the rest of the colon. Cancers of the right colon can grow to large sizes before they cause any abdominal symptoms. Typically, right-sided cancers cause iron deficiency anemia due to the slow loss of blood over a long period of time. Iron deficiency anemia causes fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath. The left colon is narrower than the right colon. Therefore, cancers of the left colon are more likely to cause partial or complete bowel obstruction. Cancers causing partial bowel obstruction can cause symptoms of constipation, narrowed stool, diarrhea, abdominal pains, cramps, and bloating. Bright red blood in the stool may also indicate a growth near the end of the left colon or rectum.

Return to Colon Cancer

See what others are saying

Comment from: Debbie, 45-54 Female (Caregiver) Published: October 10

My husband is 52. Two years ago he was seeing his primary care physician for constipation, right side stomach pain, night sweats, and back pain. She told him he was going through man-o-pause, and needed to go to physical therapy. He decided he must just be overweight, but continued to consult with her. One night he came home from work (truck driver) with a 106 temperature. We went to the emergency room and he was taken by ambulance to a larger hospital. His colon, after 6 months of seeing his doctor for his symptoms, was already perforated by a 9 cm tumor. He had 4 lymph nodes that were involved. Two couldn't be removed (one was by the artery to his heart). He responded well to oxaliplatin, fluorouracil, and Avastin. After a year and a half of chemotherapy he had 3 scans that showed no sign of colon cancer. However, his last scan showed an inconclusive 1 to 1 1/2 cm spot on his liver. It is too small to see with an ultrasound so we are waiting to find out what they feel they need to do to find out what it is. This whole cancer thing really messes with your head and heart. Waiting is the worst.

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Comment from: Too hot to handle, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: March 29

Applying Burt Bees diaper rash cream with baby powder to the affected areas helps a lot with heat rash. It provides a cooling sensation and helps eliminate wetness.

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Comment from: biddy, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: December 16

I had a change in bowel movements. I noticed some small round fecal matter, but no blood visible. After another month or so went by I experienced sporadic (once a week at night) pain in my stomach area, rolling pain like labor pains that came and went with regularity. By this time I had been referred to a gynecologist physician. Ultra sound showed no abnormalities. This doctor suggested I go see a gastric surgeon. I only saw a physician's assistant at this office, however she gave me a take home fecal test which I returned to be told it had blood in it. She suggested I have a colonoscopy. Before I had the colonoscopy I experienced a particularly nasty night of pain and was waiting outside before the doctor's office opened. I was sent immediately for a CAT scan and as I got home, the phone was ringing with the news that a mass in the descending colon had been found. I had the colonoscopy a week or so later and the surgeon could not get the mass so surgery was scheduled two weeks later. Tumor was removed via keyhole surgery, 39 lymph nodes removed, all negative and was staged as 2B. I was offered adjuvant therapy but declined. I hope that was not a mistake on my part. That was in March 2014. I am being followed by surgeon and oncologist on an interval basis. Lesson, listen to your body, do not ignore pain or change in bowel habits and insist on a colonoscopy. It is easy, painless and could save your life; absolutely. A polyp in time saves you from cancer!

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