What is Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer overall in the United States. Only lung cancer is more common.

Fortunately, the number of people diagnosed with colorectal cancer has been decreasing over the last 20 years, partly as a result of more screening, which results in finding and removing colorectal polyps before they turn into cancer. The number of Americans who die from colorectal cancer has also declined in the last 20 years. This reflects the declining number of people diagnosed with colorectal cancer as well as improvements in early detection and treatment. 

The Colon and Rectum 

Cancer that begins in the colon is called Colon Cancer, and cancer that begins in the rectum is called Rectal Cancer. Cancer that starts in the colon or rectum may also be called colorectal cancer.


The colon and rectum are part of the body’s digestive system. The digestive system takes in nutrients (like vitamins and proteins) from foods and helps pass waste material out of the body. The organs in the digestive system include the esophagus, stomach, and the small and large intestines.

The first 6 feet of the large intestine are called the large bowel, or colon. The last 6-8 inches are the rectum and the anal canal. The anal canal ends at the anus (the opening of the large intestine to the outside of the body).

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