Win the Fight Against Colon Cancer!
Colon cancer or cancer of the rectum is also called colorectal cancer. In the United States, colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in men, after skin, prostate, and lung cancer. It is also the fourth most common cancer in women, after skin, lung, and breast cancer.
The Colon and Rectum
The colon and rectum are parts of the digestive system. They form a long, muscular tube called the large intestine (also called the large bowel). The colon is the first 4 to 5 feet of the large intestine, and the rectum is the last 4 to 5 inches. The part of the colon that joins to the rectum is the sigmoid colon. The part that joins to the small intestine is the cecum.
Partly digested food enters the colon from the small intestine. The colon removes water and nutrients from the food and stores the rest as waste. The waste passes from the colon into the rectum and then out of the body through the anus.
Cancer begins in cells, the building blocks that make up tissues. Tissues make up the organs of the body.
Normally, cells grow and divide to form new cells as the body needs them. When cells grow old, they die, and new cells take their place.
Sometimes this orderly process goes wrong. New cells form when the body does not need them, and cells do not die when they should. These extra cells can form a mass of tissue called a growth or tumor.
Tumors can be benign or malignant:
Benign tumors are not cancer:
Benign tumors are rarely life-threatening.
Generally, benign tumors can be removed, and they usually do not grow back.
Cells from benign tumors do not invade the tissues around them.
Cells from benign tumors do not spread to other parts of the body.
Malignant tumors are cancer:
Malignant tumors are generally more serious than benign tumors. They may be life-threatening.
Malignant tumors usually can be removed, but sometimes they grow back.
Cells from malignant tumors can invade and damage nearby tissues and organs.
Cells from malignant tumors can spread to other parts of the body. The cells spread by breaking away from the original cancer (primary tumor) and entering the bloodstream or lymphatic system. They invade other organs, forming new tumors and damaging these organs. The spread of cancer is called metastasis.