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Dr. Robert D. Fusco, Medical Director    
Colon Cancer In the Liver as Seen During Surgery

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Colon Cancer In the Liver as Seen During Surgery
 
Colon cancer is one of those silent killers. There are usually no warning symptoms in the early stages. It may start small, but eventually 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 metastates. The condition is then called metastatic colon cancer to the liver. This photo was taken during surgery on a patient with colon cancer. Unfortunately, as is too often the case, the cancer was discovered at a late stage and has already spread to the liver. The white area (arrow) seen within the liver is a metastastic area of colon cancer. You can see the gallbladder (GB) in the foreground. 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. A common technique, to determine before surgery if a patient with colon cancer has metastatic deposits in the liver, is doing a Abdominal CT Scan.

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. 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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