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What is the difference between colorectal, colon, and rectal cancers?

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You’ve probably heard of “colorectal cancer,” but colon cancer and rectal cancer aren’t the same. It’s important to know which one you have. That will affect your treatment options and what you can expect.

Both colon and rectal cancer affect the large intestine, which is the lowest part of the digestive system. Colon cancer can start anywhere in the colon, which is about 5 feet long and absorbs water from poop.

Rectal cancer starts in the rectum, which is the last 5 inches of the colon. It’s where the body stores poop until you go to the bathroom.

SOURCES:

Virginia Mason Medical Center: “Colon Cancer FAQ.”

Lee, Y-C. , Nov. 12, 2013. PLoS ONE

Seattle Cancer Care Alliance: “Colon Cancer vs. Rectal Cancer: What is the Difference?”

National Cancer Institute: “Anatomy of Colon and Rectum.”

UpToDate: "Patient information: Colon and rectal cancer (Beyond the Basics)."

UpToDate: "Patient information: Colonoscopy (Beyond the Basics)."

American Cancer Society: “What are the survival rates for colorectal cancer, by stage?”

National Cancer Institute: “What You Need To Know About Cancer of the Colon and Rectum.”

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin on July 10, 2018

SOURCES:

Virginia Mason Medical Center: “Colon Cancer FAQ.”

Lee, Y-C. , Nov. 12, 2013. PLoS ONE

Seattle Cancer Care Alliance: “Colon Cancer vs. Rectal Cancer: What is the Difference?”

National Cancer Institute: “Anatomy of Colon and Rectum.”

UpToDate: "Patient information: Colon and rectal cancer (Beyond the Basics)."

UpToDate: "Patient information: Colonoscopy (Beyond the Basics)."

American Cancer Society: “What are the survival rates for colorectal cancer, by stage?”

National Cancer Institute: “What You Need To Know About Cancer of the Colon and Rectum.”

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin on July 10, 2018

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What are symptoms of colon and rectal cancer?

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