Is this topic for you?
This topic will tell you
about the initial testing, diagnosis, and treatment of colorectal
If you want to learn about colorectal cancer that has
come back or has spread, see the topic
Colorectal Cancer, Metastatic or Recurrent.
happens when cells that are not normal grow in your
colon or rectum . These cells grow together and form tumors.
cancer is also called colon cancer or rectal cancer. It is the third most
common cancer in the United States. And it occurs most often in people older
As with other cancers, treatment for colorectal cancer works best when the cancer is found early. Screening tests can detect or prevent this cancer, but only about half of people older
than 50 are screened. According to the American Cancer Society, if everyone
were tested, tens of thousands of lives could be saved each year.
What causes colorectal cancer?
Most cases begin as
polyps , which are small growths inside the colon or
Colon polyps are very common, and most of them do not
turn into cancer. But doctors cannot tell ahead of time which polyps will turn
into cancer. This is why people older than 50 need regular tests to find out if
they have any polyps and then have them removed. And some people who are
younger than 50 need regular tests if their medical history puts them at
increased risk for colorectal cancer.
What are the symptoms?
Colorectal cancer usually
does not cause symptoms until after it has begun to spread. See your doctor if
you have any of these symptoms:
- Pain in your belly
Blood in your
stool or very dark stools
- A change in your bowel habits, such as
more frequent stools or a feeling that your bowels are not emptying
How is colorectal cancer diagnosed?
If your doctor
thinks that you may have this cancer, you will need a test, called a
colonoscopy, that lets the doctor see the inside of
your entire colon and rectum. During this test, your doctor will remove polyps
or take tissue samples from any areas that don't look normal. The tissue will
be looked at under a microscope to see if it contains cancer.
Sometimes another test, such as a
sigmoidoscopy, is used to diagnose colorectal
How is it treated?
Surgery is almost always used
to treat colon and rectal cancer. The cancer is more easily removed when it is found early.
If the cancer has spread into the wall of
the colon or farther, you may also need
chemotherapy. These treatments have side effects, but
most people can manage the side effects with medicines or home care.