Colon cancer staging tests estimate how far a particular cancer has penetrated into the colon and whether the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes or organs. The results of the staging test will indicate how to proceed with treatment. Most colon cancer staging tests are done after surgery has been performed and pathology reports have been reviewed.
Before undergoing additional surgery or other treatments, a patient will likely have an abdominal CT scan and a lung X-ray to determine whether cancer has spread to these other areas. A blood test called a carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) test is also often done.
For rectal cancer, an MRI or ultrasound is also required. This may change the treatment plan, which is designed by a team of experts from surgery, radiology, medical oncology (chemotherapy), and radiation oncology. It is best performed at a center that does this routinely, as expertise is required. Please call us to learn more.
The most common staging system is called the TNM System. The “T” is for the degree of invasion of the tumor in the intestinal wall, “N” for the degree of lymphatic node involvement, and “M” for the degree of metastasis, or the spread of malignant growths to other organs, such as the liver or lungs.
Even in cases in which cancer has spread to other organs, treatment using combined or staged approaches may be effective. Every situation is different, and individual care requires expert input from a variety of specialties. This leads to a personalized approach and the best possible outcome.
Learn more about the National Accreditation Program for Rectal Cancer.