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My mom.

Posts: 1
Joined: Oct 2007

My mom has just recently started chemo. I dont really know alot about the whole cancer thing, but she said something today about it being level 4 cancer, but im unaware of what level is bad. I was just hoping someone could help me with this?

spongebob's picture
Posts: 2598
Joined: Apr 2003

avatruff -

First, welcome to the SemiColons. Whether you're a cancer survivor, a caregiver, or a concerned loved one there is lots of info and support available to you here.

Cancer isn't really graduated in "levels", it is graduated in "stages". There are four stages (aptly names stage 1, stage 2, stage 3, and stage 4; some would argue that there is also a stage 0). These graduations in stage aren't really a measure of how "bad" the cancer is (personally, I think ALL cancer is bad!), rather they are an indication of - at least in the case of colo-rectal cancer - how much the cancer is contained or not contained and to what extent it has spread in the body.

If you are one of those who count stage 0, then stage 0 is a pre-cancerous polyp. It isn't cancer yet, but shows the signs of becoming cancerous. Not all polyps are or will become cancerous. These are usually easily managed by nipping them in the bud during a colonoscopy.

Stage 1 cancer is cancer that is totally contained or encapsulated. It is fairly easy to manage this stage of cancer by surgery. Often there is no chemo involved post-surgery. Sometimes chemo and or radiation may be used prior to surgery if the surgeon desires to shrink the tumor to make surgery less invasive or to save as much rectal muscle as possible to avoid the necessity of an ostomy.

Stage 2 cancer is cancer that is no longer encapsulated; it has grown outside of the colon muscle wall and into the viscera. Typically surgery and chemo are employed for Stage 2 cancer.

Stage 3 cancer is cancer that has invaded the lymph nodes. Since your lymphatic system runs throughout your entire body - similar to your circulatory system - it is possible that cancer cells can travel to other parts of your body via the diseased lymph node. Surgery on the tumor and removal of the diseased lymph node(s) along with chemotherapy is typically the treatment. I should also mention that chemo/radiation is sometimes used in Stage 2 and 3 prior to surgery also for the same reason as I mentioned for Stage 1.

Stage 4 cancer is when the cancer has spread from the primary site to another organ or organs in the body. Colon cancer seems to have an affinity for spreading to the lungs and the liver. Many people regard Stage 4 cancer as the "worst" stage of cancer. Granted, it is more difficult to manage treatment, but there are many people right here on this board who have survived Stage 4 cancer and are today cancer free.

The most important thing to remember is this: Everyone is different, everyone's treatment regime is different, and you must not tie yourself to statistics. Statistics do not determine a cancer patient's treatment results; the patient does.

Hope this was helpful.

Keeping your mom in my prayers.

- SpongeBob

jerseysue's picture
Posts: 626
Joined: Oct 2005

Very well stated.

nudgie's picture
Posts: 1482
Joined: Sep 2006

SpongeBob has stated the truth and nothing can be added, except welcome to the most powerful, supportive, loving family on the internet. We are hear 24/7, 365 days a year to listen no matter that the issue, question, whine etc is.

Please keep your family here updated.

Posts: 1048
Joined: Jan 2007

Hi and welcome , SB said it very well. Take to heart his last paragraph, about not tying yourself to statistics. There are many stage IV survivors on this board. Keep a positive attitude and it will help your mom a lot to do the same. God Bless.

Betsydoglover's picture
Posts: 1256
Joined: Jul 2005

Hi Avatruff -

Bob said it all better than anyone could. Welcome to our site. I am also Stage IV (liver mets), but have been NED (no evidence of disease) now for 25 months (and off chemo for 23 months). So, please know that while Stage IV is normally viewed as "the worst stage", it is also survivable.

Let us know what chemo treatments your Mom is on and many people here can help with side effects. Also, feel free to email me on this site.

Take care (and welcome),

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