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Colorectal cancer

What is colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer is a cancer that starts in the colon or the rectum. These cancers can also be named colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on where they start. Colon cancer and rectal cancer are often grouped together because they have many features in common.

What are the risk factors for colorectal cancer?

Risk factors for colorectal cancer include:

  • Men and women age 50 and older
  • People who use tobacco, are obese and are sedentary
  • People with a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or benign (not cancerous) colorectal polyps
  • People with a personal or family history of inflammatory bowel disease, such as long-standing ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
  • People with a family history of inherited colorectal cancer

What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer?

Symptoms of colorectal cancer include:

  • Rectal bleeding or blood in or on the stool
  • Change in bowel habits or stools that are more narrow than usual
  • Stomach discomfort (bloating, fullness or cramps)
  • Diarrhea, constipation or feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
  • Weight loss for no apparent reason
  • Constant fatigue
  • Vomiting

How is colorectal cancer diagnosed?

If you are at average risk for colorectal cancer, start having regular screenings at 50. If you are at greater risk, you may need to begin regular screenings at an earlier age. The best time to get screened is before any symptoms appear.

How is colorectal cancer treated?

Standard treatments for colorectal cancer include:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Cryosurgery
  • Radiofrequency ablation
  • Targeted therapy

Find a Colorectal Cancer Doctor

Learn more about the Advanced Pelvic and Retroperitoneal Malignancy Program