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Dr. Robert D. Fusco, Medical Director    
CT Scan Showing Colon Cancer Metastatic to the Liver

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Colon Cancer
 
This is a photo taken from a CT scan of a patient in whom cancer has spread to the liver. A CT scan uses a computer and high speed x-rays to look at the body in slices like a loaf of bread. This photo is a CT scan view looking at a slice through the abdominal area looking from below. The multiple dark circular shadows (arrows) within the liver are area of cancer. As cancer grows within the colon, cancer cells break out through the colon wall and are carried by the bloodstream to the liver. Acting as a giant filter, the liver traps the rogue cells where they remain. As these cells begin to grow within the liver, they form nodules called metastases. The condition is then called metastatic colon cancer to the liver. This is advanced stage D colon cancer and cannot be cured. The clusters of cancer grow larger and eventually the liver is totally replaced by cancer cells leading to liver failure. Death is usually within a year.

Current studies suggest that it may take as long as ten years for a small colon polyp to end up as an advanced colon cancer like this one. But during that entire time, there are no warning symptoms. By the time most patients have symptoms, it is already too late. However, had this patient undergone routine colon screening exams, this fatal cancer could have been detected in the benign polyp stage and the cancer prevented. This is why screening programs are so important.

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