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Seeking help from the Colorectal Folks!

Posts: 81
Joined: Jul 2004

Hi, I am a Breast Cancer girl and don't know much about Colon cancer but just found out today that my mom was diagnosed with what sounds like a pretty bad mass in her sigmoid colon.
I am really only familar with the Breast Cancer doctor talk - and since my mom lives in another state I am trying to decipher this second hand.
In BC if we say "metastasis" it can mean it went to a lymph node, and then when it went to other organs the BC docs say "distant" metastasis.

BUT- I have been trying to read up on colon cancer and found that when the docs say "metastasis" with the colon it means stage IV.

Here is what the happened:
She never had a colonoscopy before- she is 73. Yes- I have been telling her for YEARS to have one. I just got her to get her first mammo last year too. She has symptoms of pain, a feeling of fullness, cramping and bleeding that she attributed to hemmeroids.
So they start the colonoscopy and they can't get the instrument past a blockage so they send her for a "virtual" colonoscopy. There they found a large mass with a couple of lymph nodes involved. The doctor said that it looks like metastasis. Then he said there was something "attaching" it to her ovary.
He said she has to go on Tuesday to meet with the surgeon and that she will be in the hospital for about a week and it is about a six week recovery time...

Now you guys know a lot- this sounds BAD. This doesn't sound like maybe a resection and maybe some chemo... this, to me, sounds like advanced stage.

What do you think? It is really hard not having all the information here.

Any info you can give me would be appreciated.

Thank you so much.

PS I have been reading some of your posts- glad to see that Avastin is tolerable as they are giving that to advanced stage BC girls now too.

PhillieG's picture
Posts: 4912
Joined: May 2005

Hi Angela, Sorry to hear about your and your Mom's diagnosis. I was diagnosed in Feb 04 with Stage IV colon cancer, I was 46 at the time. I didn't have a very large mass in my colon, but it did spread to my liver and gallbladder and some lymph nodes. My PCP, who was an oncologist wanted to try to control the cancer, not try to cure me of it. Luckily I got rid of him and found better doctors. I did the chemo thing for 6 months, then had surgery where they took out part of my colon (no bag needed) and 60% of my liver and my gallbladder. They also installed a heptic pump which is under my skin and delivered chemo to my liver for 6 months after my surgery. Stage IV is not the best stage to have (there is no stage V or VI) but it can be treated. I'm sure there are others in this forum who have overcome Stage IV and are survivors for many years. This is all I have to offer about my experience right now...
I hope all goes well.

spongebob's picture
Posts: 2598
Joined: Apr 2003

Hi, Angela -

Welcome to the second-most talkative site on CSN (after the BC gals, of course!)

Surgery followed by a week in the hospital and a six week recovery actually sounds like a typical resection. If the tumor is too low and the surgeon can't get clean margins without taking too much of the sphincter muscle, your mom may have an ostomy when it's all said and done.

You are correct CRC definition of mets is the same as BC's "distant mets". Node involvement only = Stage 3 for us. Problem with CRC is that once the cancer gets outside the colon wall, it's right against some other organs (lungs, liver, reproductive organs) and contact mets can result. It isn't necessarily due to lymph commonality.

Hard to say exactly what the deal will be for your mom until the surgeon gets in there and actually takes a gander. The important thing for you to keep in mind here is that there are lots fo folks here who are Stage 4 survivors. There is a lot of insight here - as I'm sure you found at the BC site.

Welcome to the Semi-Colons - sorry you and your mom have to be here, but we're glad you are.


- SpongeBob

Posts: 81
Joined: Jul 2004

Thank you both so very much for your replies.
I think I understand now that the ovary involvement means it spread there too but that is not confirmed until her surgery. I wish her surgery was soon- I hope that the doctor she meets with on Tuesday schedules her right away.
With my breast cancer they were booking me immediately for my first surgery ( of 6)
This is such a wonderful site.
I know having cancer is terrible but aren't cancer survivors the coolest people?
Thank you again and I will let you know more after she meets with the surgeon.

spongebob's picture
Posts: 2598
Joined: Apr 2003

Angela -

A couple things to keep in mind if for some reason they don't schedule her for surgery right away:

1. Colon cancer is typically much more slow-growing than breast cancers

2. You were much younger and probably in much better condition to undergo surgery - they may need to stabilize her condition a bit more.

You're so right survivors and caregivers are the greatest - and some of the coolest are right here at CSN.

Keeping you and your mom in my prayers.

- SpongeBob

Posts: 484
Joined: Jan 2005

Hi Angela,
For staging of colon cancer the size of the tumor is less important than how far it's spread into (or through) the colon wall. Lymph node involvement and presence of distant mets add to the mix for staging, which drives prognosis and treatment plan. Lymph node involvement without distant mets is stage III, while any tumor in the colon with associated distant mets is stage IV. Metastisis can be either by direct contact of nearby organs if the tumor spreads beyond the colon wall, or via the "usual" routes--lymphatic vessels or blood stream. Surgery is the primary treatment for all colon cancer (which is way we're the "Semi-Colon's"). Depending on a variety of factors radiation and/or chemotherapy are used after surgery unless very early stage disease. As for the time in the hospital...sounds about right. Also, be aware that recovery time from surgery is longer in the elderly.
Hope this helps.

taunya's picture
Posts: 392
Joined: Jul 2002

Hi Angela,
First, congrats on being a survivor yourself! I think Howard makes a good point when he says that the size of the tumor is not so important as the depth to which it penetrates the surrounding tissues. If it has not penetrated throught he wall of the colon, that is a very good thing, even if the tumor is large. Sometimes people have radiation treatments before surgery to try to shrink the tumor as well.
Try not to think the worst.
I will be thinking of you and your Mom. Best of luck to both of you.

Posts: 205
Joined: Apr 2005

Hi angela, I've read everyones post here and it is all so good! Just want you to know that I wish you and your mom the best. Please feel free to ask further questions here as needed. The surgery for me was very hard. I was 5o at the time. It might be a bit rough for your mom, but you tell her that God is with her giving her strength!..and our prayers are with you and her too! Hugggs.. Wanda

kangatoo's picture
Posts: 2115
Joined: Feb 2004

Hiya Angela...my o my....you have had a rough time gal. It is pretty importan that ou focu on how to go about supporting your mum after the surgery. I know that you are worried as hell for your mum but try not to think the worst Angela. For example I was told that until the actual surgery there were no 100% guarantees that I would not need a bag.(I didn't luckily) As Spongebob said, the surgeons priority is to be able to do a resection with clear margins. How much colon/sigmid they take will depend on what they find. When doing the surgery they will look very closely at all the organs to make sure that they are looking good. Your mums present general health will really determine her time overall in hospital nd her ability to heal well. For you, being able to try and keep a positive attitude and keep an open mind until the surgery is over will go a long way to helping your mum. You will better be able to support her if you are in good health and you can get as much info as posible to help her thru this.
We hope that her staging is at the lower level Angela. Keep us up to date.
All our best love and prayers, kanga n Jen

Posts: 81
Joined: Jul 2004

Thank you all so much again... you are really helping me.
She had a rough night passing a lot of blood and whitish material that she asked me what I thought it was and I had no idea- I am also in another state so I told her to call the doctor right away.
Well- the doctor's office said that all they could do was send her to the ER but what she needs is the surgery and they can't do anything more from their end because they are GI docs.
My sister (who lives in Virgina with her) called the hospital and they said unless she is running a fever and vomitting she should wait.
So I got her to promise to call the surgeon tomorrow and move up her appointment to tomorrow. The sooner they get in there the better.
All she needs is an EKG and she can have the surgery as all the blood work has already been done.
She also told me she has been having symptoms for FOUR YEARS!
Anyhow- I will keep you all posted and I truly thank you for all your help.

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