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Colorectal cancer can grow beyond the colon or rectum. In time, it can spread to nearby organs or to glands called lymph nodes. Cancer cells can also travel to other parts of the body. This is known as metastasis. Staging cancer determines whether it has spread, and if so, how far. Knowing the cancer stage helps the doctor make the best treatment plan. Colorectal cancer has four stages, based on the location of the tumor. Staging may be done before or during surgery.
Stage I: Cancer found only in the colon or rectum lining.
Stage II: Cancer has spread outside the colon or rectum to nearby tissue, but not to lymph nodes.
Stage III: Cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, but not to other parts of the body.
Stage IV: Cancer cells have traveled to distant organs such as the lungs and liver.