About Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is a disease in which malignant cells form in the colon and rectum, digestive organs whose primary functions are to absorb water and nutrients from consumed food and beverages, as well as store digestive waste until it is expelled through the anus.
More than 95% of colorectal cancers are adenocarcinomas, which originate from the mucus-producing gland cells that line the interior of the colon and rectum. Other rare types of colorectal cancers include carcinoid tumors, gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs), lymphomas and sarcomas.
Signs and Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer
Symptoms of colorectal cancers include:
  • Change in bowel habits that last more than a few days
  • Stools that are bloody, dark or narrower than usual
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Feeling discomfort, pain or fullness in the abdomen
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue and weakness
While many of these symptoms may be caused by other conditions, early colorectal cancer detection is crucial to successful treatment. If you or a loved one experiences any of the above symptoms, please contact a doctor for further evaluation.
Risk Factors of Colorectal Cancer
Risk factors associated with colorectal cancer include:
  • Age: Approximately 90% of colorectal cancer diagnoses are among people ages 50 and older
  • Diet: A diet high in red or processed meats have been shown to increase colorectal risk, while a diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains is linked with a lower risk
  • Diseases and Conditions:
    • Colorectal Polyps: polyps are growths found on the inside of the colon; most polyps are benign (non-cancerous) but they can indicate pre-cancerous cellular changes that lead to colorectal cancer
    • Diabetes: People with type 2 diabetes are at an increased risk for colorectal cancer
    • Genetic Conditions: inherited gene mutations that are passed from parents to children may account for as many as 10 percent of colorectal cancer cases. These include familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer (HNPCC or Lynch syndrome), Turcot syndrome, Peutz-Jeghers syndrome and MUTYH-associated polyposis
    • Inflammatory Bowel Disease: also known as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, this condition is characterized by long-term inflammation of the digestive tract, which can cause cellular changes that lead to colorectal cancer
  • Ethnicity: In the United States, African Americans and Ashkenazi Jews have the highest risk of colorectal cancer
  • Family History: In addition to genetic conditions that can elevate colorectal cancer risk, a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps can also raise an individual’s likelihood of developing this disease
  • Heavy Alcohol Use: Excessive alcohol consumption (more than 2 drinks a day for men or 1 drink a day for women) has been linked to higher likelihood of developing colorectal cancer
  • Obesity: Obese people are more likely to develop colorectal cancer
  • Physical Activity: Regular physical activity has been linked with a lower likelihood of developing colorectal cancer
  • Tobacco Use: Compared to non-smokers, smokers are more likely to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer
If you suspect that you or a loved one may have an elevated risk of colorectal cancer, please consult with a doctor on preventive and early detection measures that are available.
If you have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer or are looking for a second opinion consultation about your treatment, find out more about becoming a patient by calling 800-826-HOPE or filling out the Request a New Patient Appointment Online form.