General Information About Colorectal Cancer
Key Points for This Section
Colorectal cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the colon or the rectum.
The colon is part of the body's digestive system. The digestive system removes and processes nutrients (vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and water) from foods and helps pass waste material out of the body. The digestive system is made up of the mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach, and the small and large intestines. The colon (large bowel) is the first part of the large intestine and is about 5 feet long. Together, the rectum and anal canal make up the last part of the large intestine and are 6 to 8 inches long. The anal canal ends at the anus (the opening of the large intestine to the outside of the body).
See the following PDQ summaries for more information about colorectal cancer:
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer in the United States.
The number of new colorectal cancer cases and the number of deaths from colorectal cancer are both decreasing a little bit each year. However, in adults younger than 50 years, the number of new colorectal cancer cases has slowly increased since 1998. The number of new colorectal cancers and deaths from colorectal cancer are higher in African Americans than in other races.
Finding and treating colorectal cancer early may prevent death from colorectal cancer. Screening tests may be used to help find colorectal cancer.