Untreated Colon Cancer Life Expectancy

Updated April 17, 2017

Statistics about colon cancer survival is just one tool used by doctors when attempting to predict a patient's life expectancy with cancer treatment. And since each individual may respond differently to treatment, life expectancy (or survival rate) cannot really be predicted definitively. This is even more true for those who elect not to seek treatment.


The colon is located in the large intestine of the body. It is the lower part of the digestive system and is responsible for removing waste from the body. Sometimes polyps form in the colon, which are often initially benign. However, these polyps can become cancerous.

Colon Cancer

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), generally the cancer that develops in the colon begins in the colon cells that are responsible for producing and releasing fluids and mucus (adenocarcinomas). Approximately 106,100 new cases of colon cancer were diagnosed in the United States during 2009---and it was responsible for nearly 50,000 deaths (from this type of cancer and rectal cancer combined).

Life Expectancy

Life expectancy is a term sometimes used in lieu of the word prognosis, but both pertain to the expected outcome anticipated for some condition. In the case of cancer, life expectancy or prognosis is based on several factors.

These factors include the type of cancer a person has, its location in the body, as well as the stage of progression---with the more severe and life-threatening stages being the higher number on the numerical scale. Other factors that influence life expectancy are the types of treatment provided, other medical conditions and whether an individual elects to refuse treatment.

Untreated Colon Cancer

It might seem odd that sometimes an individual chooses not to treat his colon cancer; however, there can be a number of reasons for this. According to NCI, some people feel that the anticipated side effects from treatment are more than they are willing to endure or experience versus what they will experience by forgoing treatment.

Another reason treatment may not be performed has to do with the stage of the colon cancer and its poor prognosis, even if treatment is administered. Colon cancers in the latter stage---and that have spread to other areas and organs of the body---are an example of cancer that may have a poor prognosis in spite of treatment.

Survival Rate

If an individual decides to forgo treatment of colon cancer in spite of her doctor's recommendations---regardless of the stage of the cancer----statistics do not exist that indicate her potential life expectancy. And since even those individuals who elect to seek treatment may or may not fall into statistical survival rates, actual life expectancy cannot be predicted for those who do not seek treatment, according to NCI.

However, it is more likely that those individuals diagnosed with stage 0 colon cancer would fare better in the life expectancy survival rate than those in stage 4 of colon cancer, since stage 0 has not spread beyond the inner colon layer, and stage 4 has already infiltrated other organs in the body, as well as the lymph nodes.

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About the Author

Holly Huntington's writing has been published online by eHow.