Overview of Stage 1 Colon Cancer

An Overview

Please send image use requests to coloncancer.guide@about.com
Illustration by Donna Myers © 2007

There are five stages of colon cancer (0-4). This staging system reflects where cancer went when no one was looking. In general, the earlier the stage, the easier the cancer is to treat. 

Stage 1 colon cancer, which used to be called Duke's A colon cancer, is one of the earliest and most treatable cancer stages.

Think Like a Tumor

To understand your tumor, it helps to think like one.

You open your eyes and find yourself in a fleshy tunnel (a colon) and the only thing you know is this: You must dig out of that tunnel. Escape. Spread.

The ground you're standing on is the first layer of the colon, the mucosa. If you dig a little, you'll pass through a thin muscle layer and run into the submucosa. Dig a little more and you'll hit a thick muscle layer, then another major muscle layer. Keep digging and you'll reach the outermost layer of the colon, the serosa. Along the way, you'll be hoping to hit a blood vessel or lymph node, since infiltrating either will help you spread faster.

Treatment for Stage 1 Colon Cancer

When interrupted at stage 1, colon cancer hasn't gotten very far. It has dug its way out of the mucosa and into the submucosa, and possibly into the bigger muscle layers a little. It's usually treated via a surgical resection, where a surgeon removes the section of the colon affected by the tumor and joins the remaining healthy sections together to form one long, healthy piece.

(Learn more about surgical resection of the colon.)

Survival Rate for Stage 1 Colon Cancer

A lot of things can influence colon cancer survival rates. The stage is a major factor, but tumor location and country of residence have also been shown to impact survival. For example, tumors in the right colon are often caught later because symptoms take longer to emerge, and in countries where early screening is relatively uncommon, tumors are caught later.

Studies have also found that exercise may increase colon cancer survival rates.

In general, more than 90 percent of people with stage 1 colon cancer are still alive five years after their diagnosis. 


  1. Cancer Facts and Figures 2005. American Cancer Society. 11 Dec. 2006 [http://www.cancer.org/docroot/STT/content/STT_1x_Cancer_Facts__Figures_2005.asp].
  2. Cancer Statistics in Japan '05: Survival Rates by Site and Clinical Stage. National Cancer Center. 11 Dec. 2006 [http://ganjoho.ncc.go.jp/pub/statistics/cancer_statistics/cancer_statistics2005/index_en.html].
  3. Colon Cancer (PDQ): Treatment: Stages of Colon Cancer. National Cancer Institute. 11 Dec. 2006 [http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/colon/Patient/page2].
  4. Colorectal Cancer Facts and Figures - Special Edition 2005. American Cancer Society. 11 Dec. 2006 [http://www.cancer.org/docroot/STT/content/STT_1x_Colorectal_Cancer_Facts_and_Figures_-_Special_Edition_2005.asp].
  5. McLeish, J. and Thursfield, V. "Survival from Colorectal Cancer in Victoria: 10-Year Follow-Up of the 1987 Management Survey." ANZ Journal of Surgery 72.5 (2002): 352. Blackwell Synergy. 11 Dec. 2006.