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Newbie - Staging Advice

Posts: 4
Joined: Nov 2007

My 34 year old sister was diagnosed with colon cancer and had 12" of her colon and a 6.1cm polyp/tumor removed. They found 14/32 lymph nodes to have cancer cells. It did go through the colon wall but they don't show other organs affected. The surgeon speculated it's stage III but hasn't said for sure as he's waiting for confirmation from pathology.

At the bottom of the report he gave my sister was this code (below). Is this stage 3c? If so, is it correct the survival rate is only 44% after 5 years? Any advice is welcome. We're all still so numb. I want to celebrate my sister's 60th birthday someday with her!

AJCC pathologic stage
pT3; pN2; pMx; pV1

Is this stage 3c?

Posts: 372
Joined: Aug 2006

T3: The cancer has grown through the mucosa, the submucosa, and completely through the thick muscle layer. It has spread to the subserosa but not to any nearby organs or tissues. N2: Cancer cells found in 4 or more regional lymph nodes. Mx means metastases and the X means unable to evaluate. I'm not certain about the V1 but it could refer to the agressive grade which is 1 to 4. Stage 0: Tis, N0, M0: The cancer is in the earliest stage. It has not grown beyond the inner layer (mucosa) of the colon or rectum. This stage is also known as carcinoma in situ or intramucosal carcinoma.

Stage I: T1, N0, M0, or T2, N0, M0: The cancer has grown through the mucosa into the submucosa (T1) or it may also have grown into the muscularis propria (T2), but it has not spread into nearby lymph nodes (N0) or distant sites.

Stage IIA: T3, N0, M0: The cancer has grown through the wall of the colon or rectum, into the outermost layers (T3). It has not yet spread to the nearby lymph nodes (N0) or distant sites.

Stage IIB: T4, N0, M0: The cancer has grown through the walls of the colon or rectum into other nearby tissues or organs (T4). It has not yet spread to the nearby lymph nodes (N0) or distant sites.

Stage IIIA: T1-2, N1, M0: The cancer has grown through the mucosa into the submucosa (T1) or it may also have grown into the muscularis propria (T2), and it has spread to 1 to 3 nearby lymph nodes (N1) but not distant sites.

Stage IIIB: T3-4, N1, M0: The cancer has grown through the wall of the colon or rectum (T3) or into other nearby tissues or organs (T4) and has spread to 1 to 3 nearby lymph nodes (N1) but not distant sites.

Stage IIIC: Any T, N2, M0: The cancer can be any T but has spread to 4 or more nearby lymph nodes but not distant sites.

Stage IV: Any T, Any N, M1: The cancer can be any T, any N, but has spread to distant sites such as the liver, lung, peritoneum (the membrane lining the abdominal cavity), or ovary (M1).

Posts: 372
Joined: Aug 2006

Sorry that cancer has brought a another newbie but welcome. Don't buy into "survival rates" The first thing they teach you in graduate statistics is decide what answer is you want and develope your data. Survival has too many variables to be classified over the general population. In other words its crap when applied to the individual. Take a deep breath don't panic there are plenty of survivors here that were Stage 3 (including me) and stage 4. Don't be afraid to ask questions there are lots of "been there" smart people on this site. Help and support awaits.

Moesimo's picture
Posts: 1080
Joined: Aug 2003

Happy Thanksgiving and welcome to our group.

Yes, your sister has stage 3 cancer, but it is not a death sentence. I was diagnosed with stage 3 rectal cancer on 3/17/03. I was 46. I was told my my surgeon that I had a 67 per cent of a cure. Most of the statistics are at least 5 years old. The survival rate is probably much higher than that now. There are many stage 3 and 4 suvivors on this site.

I don't know where your sister is being treated, but I would suggest a second opinion at a major cancer center. Make sure that all siblings get a colonoscopy. Make sure your sister has a Pet Scan.

You will get through this. You and here will be there for her 60, 70, and 90th birthdays.

I remember when I was first diagnosed. I was so scared and 5 years seemed so far away. Now I am almost there and you sister will get there too.
Good luck and keep us posted.


KathiM's picture
Posts: 8077
Joined: Aug 2005

Well, lou said it all...thanks, dearheart!

One thing VERY IMPORTANT to add...

If she is your blood sister, YOU need to have AT LEAST FOBT (test for blood in the stool) done at 24 (10 years before her age of diagnosis). Preferably, have a flex sigmoidoscopy, and, if you love to fight with insurance companies, go all out for a colonoscopy. YOU must now be vigilant, too....

2 years post MY diagnosis of stage III rectal, my sister was diagnosed with stage III rectal...hummm, there seems to be a pattern....had it not been for me going before her, she would have never caught it before it was very far progressed....no symptoms that she didn't easily write off as 'stress'....

If you want to celebrate her 60th, you need to take care of you, too....

Statistics can be way, way off....I was given 6 months to live, 3 years ago....It is not going to be a very fun fight (they are treating an area she will be trying to use to digest with everyday), but you both need to look at this as a moment in your lives...look beyond it, start planning something fun to do AFTER she recovers from treatment....I went to a spa in Palm Springs for 3 days....the planning got me thru some very dark moments in my treatment....

Hugs, Kathi

Posts: 372
Joined: Aug 2006

Thanks Kathi you are right about siblings being tested. As I said there are a lot of smart people here.:)

ron50's picture
Posts: 1729
Joined: Nov 2001

I was stage 3c . I know it seems daunting but we do survive . The next anniversary of my surgery will be in Jan 08 . That will be the end of my tenth year clear and officially cured. Wishing your sister the same good fortune. Ron.

claud1951's picture
Posts: 429
Joined: Jun 2007

Hi there,
I had stage 3 colon cancer. Was diagnosed 1 year ago. Am now done with chemo (about 6 weeks now). I heard what they said about statistics but I said...not me! I'm going longer than that!

A good attitude will be a BIG help through this journey in her life. Actually, you as caregivers, need one ,too! (which I'm sure you do).

Your sister needs to use her energy for going forward. OH...she can have a pity party now and then (I did)>>>grin>> but they didn't last long then just keep going.

Yes..there are lots of people on here that can help you through this. It's a very helpful and informative place to be.

Let us know how she gets along and the next step.


Posts: 119
Joined: Jan 2007

I'm am so sorry your sister (and you) are having to deal with colon cancer at such a young age.

I was staged at stage III (colon). They removed a foot of my colon and a 5.2cm tumor. It was in one node so I had to do the chemo. It was tough, no way around it, but so necessary. I call it a "necessary evil". I made it through the chemo in mid September and I'm really feeling good again. I went this morning to my surgeon for an exam to have my port removed.

I was diagnosed at T3, N1, Mx stage 3A. My oncologist told me he was optimistic about me (but also he didn't guarantee I would never have a recurrence). My surgeon told me today he too was optimistic.

There is hope and brighter days ahead for your sister. Both of you have to have a positive attitude, it makes all of this so much easier to endure.

You will find so much support and info on this board, a great bunch of nice and knowledgeable people. You have received such great info already.
Don't be timid about asking questions. I sure have and they have been graciously answered.

Please keep us posted on your sister's progress. We care!


Posts: 1048
Joined: Jan 2007

Hi and welcome . I know what a shock this news can be. We all do, but do yourself and your sister a favor, stay away from stats. They are outdated and don't focus on what "may" be , but on each day as it occurs. Many advances have been made and hopefully many more will be in the near future. Things can change in a heartbeat as you well know. Hubby is stage IV, just had a liver resection 6 weeks ago and currently NED(no evidence of disease). I dont bother with the stats anymore, we've already defied them once so no reason why we can't again with God's help.Keep us posted and Keep the faith. God Bless,


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