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My father went to the doctor over a week ago for severe constipation. They did an endoscopy and the results stated colon cancer in transverse and descending colon. Then they did a colonoscopy and no cancer was found. After the colonoscopy my father developed ascites. He now also has stage 3 kidney damage. They did find a mass outside of his gi tract but inside of the abdominal cavity. They did a core biopsy and they are now calling it lymphatic cancer. He is continuing to fill up with fluid in his abdomen and every other day they have drained off 2200 cc’s of fluid. Today they said they will not be draining off any more fluid and instead they want to start chemo tommarrow. His VS are starting to look bad and one minute they are telling us that the colon cancer has moved to the liver and the next that he will be cured in a couple of days. They did some sort of blood test for cancer and it was very high. What else should we do? I do not think he will be with us much longer.

Your father’s prognosis depends on the type of cancer he has as well as the staging of the cancer. Colon cancer is stratified from Stage 0 to Stage IV. Stage 0 cancer is the earliest detectible form of cancer and it is limited to the most inner layer of the colon. Stage IV cancer is the most advanced stage of cancer as the cancerous cells have spread to lymph nodes and at least one distant organ (Liver, Lungs, Bones, Brain, etc.).

Treatment of cancer depends on the stage. For early stage cancer, surgery is often offered and the goal of treatment is to cure the diease and elminate the cancer cells. For late stage cancer, the goals shift from curative to palliative as the disease cannot be cured. For late stage cancer patients, chemotherapy and/or surgery are offered to reduce pain/suffering and extend the life of the patient.

The doctors, nurses, and staff should be able to offer you an accurate assessment of your father’s condition and provide you with the goals for treatment and prognosis of your father. If your father does have end-stage cancer, they should also be able to offer you advice regarding comfort care, end of life planning, etc.