The colon and rectum are parts of the body’s digestive system and together form a long, muscular tube called the large intestine. The colon is the first 6 feet of the large intestine and the rectum is the last 8-10 inches. According to estimates from the American Cancer Society, more than 95,000 individuals will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in the United States this year making colorectal cancer the third most common cancer among U.S. men and women.1,2
There is good news about colorectal cancer in the U.S: death rates associated with the disease have been dropping for several decades, and advances continue to be made in screening, prevention, and treatment.1,2,3
Adenocarcinoma refers to cancer that begins in the cells that line the colon and accounts for over 90% of cancers originating in the colon. Other cancers, including carcinoid tumors and leiomyosarcoma, also originate in the colon, but are not referred to as colon cancer. This overview deals only with adenocarcinoma of the colon, which will be referred to as colon cancer.
Colon cancer begins in cells that line the colon. As the cells increase in number, they spread circumferentially around the colon like a “napkin ring.” If detected early, cancer cells may only be found in the colon. If not detected early, the cancer may invade adjacent organs and spread through the lymph and blood systems throughout the body to the liver, lungs and other organs.
The treatment of colon cancer typically consists of surgery and/or systemic therapy with chemotherapy or precision cancer medicines. Care may involve a gastroenterologist, surgeon, and a medical oncologist and be carefully coordinated between the various treating physicians to achieve the best outcome.3
Next: Symptoms of Colon Cancer
1 American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2017.
3 National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology. Colon Cancer. V.3.2008. © National Comprehensive Cancer Network, Inc. 2008. NCCN® and NATIONAL COMPREHENSIVE CANCER NETWORK® are registered trademarks of National Comprehensive Cancer Network, Inc.