How Fast Does Colon Cancer Spread?

According to current research, if colon cancer is going to metastasize, or spread, it usually does so within two years of developing, notes the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The tumors that spread appear to have the ability to do so hardwired into their DNA.

According to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, many people with colon cancer can be cured through the surgical removal of the tumor. However, other colon cancers spread very quickly and cause approximately 60,000 deaths annually. In such cases, radiation or chemotherapy are necessary to eradicate the tumors in other areas of the body. Unfortunately, this does not always work, and colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer mortality in the United States. Essentially, colon cancers come in a lethal form and a benign form. This lethality largely depends on errors in the genetic code of the cancerous cells.

Cancer cells accumulate errors, or mutations, in their DNA as they grow. Some of these mutations cause the tumor to disregard the body’s signals to stop growing, while others mutate in ways that allow the cell to metastasize. Mutations that allow tumors to spread occur early in the process of most colon cancers. Because of this, researchers at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute have determined that metastatic colon cancers spread quickly, or not at all.