When colon cancer spreads to the liver

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

By DeeDee Stiepan

Colorectal cancer, which starts in the colon or the rectum, is the third most common cancer worldwide. Many colorectal cancers are likely to spread to other organs, with the most common site of metastases being the liver.

In this Mayo Clinic Minute, Dr. Sean Cleary, a hepatobiliary and pancreas surgeon at Mayo Clinic, explains what this means to patients.

"Up to 30% of patients with colon cancer will develop a spot in their liver of metastasis at some point in their fight against colon cancer," explains Dr. Cleary.

He says while the diagnosis is serious, recent advances in treatment have improved the outlook for patients.

"The best options are if we can combine chemotherapy and surgery to remove all of the metastasis from the liver. We can be quite aggressive with that. The liver is a wonderful organ in that it regenerates. So we can remove up to 70% ― almost 80% ― of someone's liver and still have that 20% to 30% that we leave behind to regenerate and regrow so that patients can continue on with their lives," says Dr. Cleary.

In these situations, applying individualized medicine is key to successful treatment.

"Not only in selecting the chemotherapy that's best for each patient, but also the surgery that will remove all of their liver tumors ― and really making sure that we have the right sequence and the right treatment together for each patient," says Dr. Cleary.


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A version of this article was originally published on the Mayo Clinic News Network.