What is metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC)?

mCRC is a stage of colorectal cancer during which the cancer has spread from the colon or rectum to other parts of the body. It is also known as stage 4 colon cancer. The most common areas it spreads to are the liver, lungs, brain, distant lymph nodes, and peritoneum (membrane the lines the abdominal cavity).

You may have common symptoms of mCRC, like:

  • Shortness of breath, which may be caused by the cancer, its treatment, or other lung conditions
  • Bowel blockage, which may cause severe cramping, belly pain, and vomiting
  • Kidney blockage, which may cause problems urinating and/or tiredness and nausea
  • Diarrhea or constipation, which may continue for weeks to months
  • Blood in stool, which is the most common symptom of mCRC

These symptoms can be serious. Keep in touch with your care team regularly.

Your mCRC treatment options

Woman writing in a notebook.

Treatment options are available. Take an active role and talk to your doctor about your goals for your next treatment. Goals could look like slowing the growth of cancer to help you live longer, preserving quality of life, or managing the symptoms. No matter what combination of treatments you and your care team choose, the goal is to help you feel as good as you can for as long as you can. It’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions and keep taking your treatment.

You likely have been treated with surgery and/or chemotherapy (chemicals to kill fast-growing cancer cells in your body). But chemotherapy may not be the only option for your next treatment. Other options may include:

  • Targeted therapies, to attack certain genes and proteins in a person’s cancer cells
  • Immunotherapy, may help your immune system attack and kill your cancer cells
  • Clinical trials, to explore new treatments that may work against mCRC

Your care team will also likely suggest supportive care to help you meet the physical and emotional challenges of colorectal cancer: 

  • Pain
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight changes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Belly swelling

Helpful support and resources

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