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Bowel cancer treatment by stage

For all stages of bowel cancer, except stage 4, surgery to remove the tumour is the initial treatment. For some cancers additional treatments, known as adjuvant therapy, may be recommended.

Stage 0

Stage 0 bowel cancer is found only in the innermost lining of the bowel. Treatment usually involves one of the following:

  • Polypectomy or local excision to remove the tumour and a small amount of surrounding tissue, or
  • More extensive surgery (resection) to remove larger bowel cancers. This may require a procedure called an anastomosis to remove the diseased part of the bowel and re-attach the healthy tissue to maintain bowel function

Surgery to remove all of the cancer is considered curative.

Stage 1

Stage 1 tumours have spread beyond the inner lining of the bowel or into the muscle wall. The cancer has not spread to the outer wall of the bowel or outside the bowel. There is no cancer in the lymph nodes.

Standard treatment involves surgery to remove the cancer and a small amount of tissue around the tumour. Additional treatments are not usually needed.

Five-year survival rate for stage I bowel cancer is more than 90%.

Stage 2

Stage 2 bowel cancers are divided into 2a and 2b.

In stage 2a there are no cancer cells in the lymph nodes but the cancer has broken through the outer covering of the bowel.

In stage 2b the cancer has grown through the outer covering of the bowel wall and into tissues or organs next to the bowel, but no lymph nodes are affected.

Standard treatment is surgical removal of the cancer and an area surrounding the cancer:
A person with Stage 2 bowel cancer may also be a candidate for a clinical trial looking at the use of adjuvant immunotherapy, radiotherapy or chemotherapy.

The 5-year survival rate for Stage 2 bowel cancer is up to 77%.

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