About Colon & Rectal Cancer
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer among men and women in the United States. According to the U.S. government, more than 145,000 people are diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year, and more than 50,000 die annually because of it.
Fortunately, the number of people diagnosed and dying from colorectal cancer has been dropping for many years. This partly is the result of better awareness of the risks and symptoms of colorectal cancer, more advanced screening tests to catch colorectal polyps before they turn into cancer, and evolving treatment options that provide better outcomes.
What Are the Colon and Rectum?
The colon and rectum are the two main parts of the large intestine. Although the colon is only one part of the large intestine, because most of the large intestine consists of colon, the two terms are often used interchangeably. The large intestine is also sometimes called the large bowel.
Digestive waste enters the colon from the small intestine as a semi-solid. As waste moves toward the anus, the colon removes moisture and forms stool. The rectum is about 6 inches long and connects the colon to the anus. Stool leaves the body through the anus. Muscles and nerves in the rectum and anus control bowel movements.
What Is Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer describes any cancers of the bowel, including those of the large intestines, colon, rectum and appendix. Specifically, colon cancer describes cancer that occurs in the colon, or first 4-5 feet of the large intestine. Rectal cancer begins in the rectum, which is the last several inches of the colon. Anal cancer, occurring in the anus, is clinically different from colon or rectal cancer.