Bowel cancer starts off as a group of benign cells called polyps. Their malignancy tends to develop over the course of about 10 to 15 years, producing increasingly noticeable symptoms along the way. One case study highlights the possibility of symptoms emerging only in the advanced stages of bowel cancer when the condition cannot be reversed.
The patient’s doctor, David Liu, told Cure Today: “She was a 33-year-old woman presenting with bowel obstruction while on vacation with her one-month-old baby.
“On diagnosis, she had stage 4 metastatic colorectal carcinoma […]. She came with a unique perspective, which was wanting to do anything and everything to spend as much time as possible with her family.”
This led doctors to treat her off protocol despite her “estimated survival of approximately one year”.
After careful consideration of the patient’s presentation, the doctors proceeded to treat her liver, which improved her chances of living longer.
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“The patient later developed ovarian drop metastases, which were surgically resected. She also developed pulmonary lesions, which were effectively treated with a combination of ablation and surgical resection.
“In the end, she developed brain metastases,” which eventually led to her death.
The end of the report states that the patient survives 54 months, “which is significantly longer than the 12-month anticipation”.
There is a widely held belief that bowel movements are impossible during bowel obstruction, but some people do pass stool.
Their symptoms are typically pain, bloating and nausea, and they may even have stool stools during bowel obstruction.
In colon cancer, bowel obstruction is suggestive of narrowing of the bowel, which prevents stool from passing.
Other cancers, however, such as lung and breast cancers can also spread to the abdomen and cause bowel obstruction.
What is stage 4 cancer?
Life expectancy is lower in stage 4 cancer than it is in the earlier stages of the disease.
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The five-year relative survival rate for stage 4 bowel cancer that has metastasised and spread to neighbouring tissue is about 14 percent.
This makes it difficult to remove cancer completely, but treatment can still prolong survival and improve quality of life.
At this final stage of the disease, symptoms are bound to be most noticeable, making them hard to ignore.
The Cancer Centre explains: “Stage 4 colorectal cancer has spread beyond the [bowel] or rectum to distant areas of the body, including tissues and/or organs.”
The health body adds that the disease is marked by the following specific characteristics:
“Stage 4A: The cancer has reached one area or organ that isn’t near the colon or rectum (such as the liver, lung, ovary or faraway lymph node).
“Stage 4B: The cancer has reached more than one area or organ that isn’t near the colon or rectum.
“Stage 4C: The cancer has spread to distant parts of the tissue that lines the abdominal wall and may have reached other areas organs.”