As the third-most-commonly diagnosed form of cancer in the United States, colorectal cancer is a life-threatening and dangerous disease that can quickly spread to nearby organs through portal circulation. For the purpose of removing tumors, preventing growth and eradicating the cancer, two-thirds of colorectal patients undergo colectomies or colon resections, surgical procedures that remove parts of the rectum or colon along with tumors.
Colorectal cancer can be a doubly damaging condition, because approximately 50 percent of patients also develop colorectal liver metastases, meaning the cancer travels and begins to grow in the liver. Unfortunately, surgical treatment procedures for colon cancer may even be linked to the development of liver metastases, as metastases occur in 20 to 40 percent of patients following recovery from a curative resection.
You may be uncertain what to expect after you have been diagnosed. Here are some associated risk factors for colorectal liver metastases.
In patients who have undergone colorectal curative surgery, tumor depth can be an indicator of the possibility of liver metastasis. Deeper wall invasion by the primary tumor and the involvement of adjacent organs before surgery might be linked to an increased risk factor for recurrence and spread from the colon or rectum to the liver.
Preoperative Serum CEA Level
Carcinoembryonic antigens, or CEA, are glycoproteins present in mucosal cells. In the case of colorectal cancer, serum CEA levels elevate, especially in indication of metastasis to other body parts, such as the liver or lymph nodes. The more advanced the tumor stage, the higher the sensitivity level of CEA. Studies show that a serum CEA level over 5 mg indicates an increased chance of already-existing or post-operative liver metastases.
Lymph Node and Lung Metastasis
If the colorectal cancer has metastasized to other areas of the body, including the lymph nodes and the lungs, it’s possible there’s a higher risk factor for tumors in the liver as well. The liver is the most common site for colorectal metastasis and recurrence after curative surgery, so if the patient shows a preoperative metastasis presence in the lungs or lymph nodes, the liver isn’t necessarily safe from post-operative development of tumors, even if the colorectal tumors are gone.
Positive Vascular Invasion
Like the presence of metastases in the lungs or lymph nodes, vascular invasion can signify the probability of developing liver metastasis. Positive vascular invasion means cancer cells have broken into blood vessels, increasing the possibility of the cancer spreading through circulatory means. Because liver metastasis occurs through portal circulation, vascular invasion is a tremendous risk factor.
Learn More About Colorectal Liver Metastases
If you’re suffering from colorectal cancer and would like to learn more about the potential risk factors of colorectal liver metastases, consult with our multidisciplinary team of liver specialists for compassionate care, information and an individualized treatment plan. Contact Dr. Fraiman today to discuss your options.