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    What Is Colorectal Cancer?

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    In order to understand colon and rectal cancer, collectively known as colorectal cancer, it might first help to understand what parts of the body are affected and how they work.

    The Colon

    The colon is a 6-foot long muscular tube connecting the small intestine to the rectum. The colon, which along with the rectum is called the large intestine, is a highly specialized organ that is responsible for processing waste so that emptying the bowels is easy and convenient. The colon removes water from the stool, and stores the solid stool. Once or twice a day it empties its contents into the rectum to begin the process of elimination.

    The Rectum

    The rectum is an 8-inch chamber that connects the colon to the anus. It is the rectum's job to receive stool from the colon, to let you know that there is stool to be evacuated, and to hold the stool until evacuation happens.

    What Is Colorectal Cancer?

    Cancer that begins in the colon is called colon cancer, and cancer that begins in the rectum is called rectal cancer. Cancers affecting either of these organs also may be called colorectal cancer.

    Colorectal cancer occurs when some of the cells that line the colon or the rectum become abnormal and grow out of control. The abnormal growing cells create a tumor, which is the cancer.

    WebMD Medical Reference

    Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on September 03, 2014
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