Like many other types of cancer, colon cancer often does not present any symptoms in its early stages. By the time the cancer has advanced to stage 4 (metastasized), a number of symptoms may occur depending on where in the body the cancer has spread. However, not everyone will experience symptoms – or the same set of symptoms – as every patient’s experience is unique.
Colon cancer is typically slow-growing, starting as a benign polyp that eventually becomes malignant. This process may occur over many years without producing any symptoms. Once colon cancer has developed, it may still be years before it is detected. Therefore, estimating how long it takes for colon cancer to become metastatic and show symptoms can be tricky.
The importance of colon cancer screening
Because early stages of colon cancer can go unnoticed for years, screening is important for early detection. It is generally recommended that individuals at average risk for colon cancer receive a screening test every 10 years. The most common option is a colonoscopy, which can detect colon cancer when the tumor is smaller and easier to treat, before it has advanced to metastatic colon cancer.
Treatment for metastatic colon cancer
If you are experiencing symptoms of metastatic colon cancer or have been diagnosed with colon cancer at any stage, it is important to learn about your treatment options. At Moffitt Cancer Center, our cancer experts collaborate in regular tumor board meetings. Our multispecialty team looks at a number of different factors to determine the best treatment option for each patient. For example, chemotherapy or radiation therapy may be an option for treating stage 4 or metastatic colon cancer that has spread to multiple areas of the body and would be difficult to treat surgically.