About Colon and Rectal Cancer

Colon cancer and rectal cancer are often referred together as colorectal cancer. The type of cancer is determined by where the tumor develops, and their treatment is quite different. Colorectal cancer is one of the most common yet most preventable cancers. Almost 90% of patients can survive this disease when detected early through screening and surveillance.

Screening and surveillance can often find adenomatous polyps, the neoplastic but non-cancerous tumors found on the lining of the colon (large intestine) or rectum. When removed early, these polyps will not have a chance to change into cancer. Many conditions can increase the risk of colorectal cancer. These include colon polyps, inflammatory bowel disease, significant family history of colon cancer especially in first-degree relatives (parents, siblings) and rare hereditary cancer syndromes such as Lynch syndrome or familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP).

Most colorectal cancers are adenocarcinoma.  The other types of tumors that may also be found in the colon include:

Often, colorectal cancer is contained within the colon and rectum, but it can spread to other organs such as the liver or lungs. Cancer from other sites may also spread to the GI tract as well.

Anal Cancer

The most common type of anal cancer is squamous cell cancer, which is often caused by human papilloma virus (HPV) and may be prevented by the HPV vaccine. Other types of anal tumors include melanoma (cancerous) and condyloma or warts (pre-cancerous). Anal cancer is highly curable if diagnosed early and usually causes rectal bleeding or a sensation of a lump in the anus.

Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD)

Chronic inflammation of the small and large intestine can lead to cancer. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are two well-known IBD diseases. Ulcerative colitis tends to affect mainly the colon and can be associated with a chronic inflammatory condition of the bile ducts called primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC). Crohn’s disease can affect both the small and large intestine and the upper digestive tract. Both diseases can also cause inflammation of the eyes (uveitis) and skin rashes. If left untreated, both diseases can cause debilitating conditions such as blood loss, anemia, bowel obstruction, malabsorption, and GI cancer.

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