About Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States in men and women combined.

hero symbol

Colorectal cancer (CRC) refers to both rectal cancer and colon cancer. The colon, or large intestine, is about five to six feet long, beginning at the cecum and ending with the anus. The last five to ten inches of the colon is called the rectum. Cancer located in the rectum is called rectal cancer, and cancer located in the rest of the colon is colon cancer. Some people also refer to colon and rectal cancers as bowel cancer.

Colorectal cancer occurs when abnormal cells form tumors in normal tissues of the intestines and digestive system. The exact type of colon or rectal cancer depends on where the abnormal cells first began and how fast they grew and spread. The main differentiator between these two cancers is where the tumor first forms — in the rectum or in the rest of the colon.

Colorectal cancer may not show any symptoms at first, but as the tumor grows, it can disrupt your body’s ability to digest food and remove waste. This causes potentially severe bowel and abdominal problems.

Colorectal cancer is preventable and treatable through screening.

Colorectal Cancer Facts and Stats

Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined and 1 in 20 people will be diagnosed in their lifetime.

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Every March, nationwide, we recognize Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month to raise awareness about the importance of screening to prevent or detect colorectal cancer in its earliest stage. Fight Colorectal Cancer raises awareness for screening and advocates for policy change and research year-round, but we take it up a big notch every March.

Colorectal Cancer Survival Rates

One of the first questions that most patients ask their doctor or ask themselves is “How long do I have?” Don’t be surprised if your doctor doesn’t give you a firm answer. Survival rates for colorectal cancer are remarkably individualized, even when it has spread and a patient is at an advanced stage of cancer.

Colorectal Cancer in Young Adults

Research tells us that colorectal cancer is no longer a disease that only affects older populations. While approximately 90% of colorectal cancer cases occur in people over the age of 50, since the mid-1990s, the number of new cases of colorectal cancer has been increasing among adults under 50 years old.

Family History, Genetics, and Colorectal Cancer

With inherited genetic abnormalities that increase the risk of colon cancer and rectal cancer, there is generally a 50% chance first-degree relatives (parents, siblings, children) inherit the same genetic abnormality and risk of developing cancer. Other relatives could be at risk as well.

Lynch Syndrome

Lynch Syndrome is the most common form of hereditary colorectal cancer, with over 1.2 million people in the U.S. currently diagnosed. Up to 3-5% of all colorectal cancer is due to Lynch syndrome. Unfortunately, this hereditary cancer is highly underdiagnosed – it is estimated that 95% of people who have Lynch don’t know they have it.