Colorectal cancer, also known as cancer of the colon and rectum, is a type of cancer that affects the large intestine (colon) and the last section of the intestine (rectum). It is the third most common cancer in men and women in the United States. Symptoms of colorectal cancer may include a change in bowel habits, abdominal pain, blood in the stool, and weight loss. Risk factors include a family history of the disease, smoking, and a diet high in red meat and low in fruits and vegetables. Screening tests, such as a colonoscopy, can help detect colorectal cancer in its early stages, when it is most treatable. Treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.


  • Age: The risk of developing colorectal cancer increases with age, with most cases occurring in people over the age of 50.
  • Family history: If a family member has been diagnosed with colorectal cancer or a hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome, such as Lynch syndrome, the risk of developing the disease is increased.
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases: People with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, have a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer.
  • Lifestyle factors: Risk of colorectal cancer is increased by unhealthy eating habits, high alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, and smoking. A diet that is high in red and processed meats, and low in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains increases the risk.
  • Obesity: People who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer
  • Race and Ethnicity: African Americans are more likely to develop and die from colorectal cancer than any other racial group in the US. It is also more common in Ashkenazi Jews, and less common in Asian, Hispanic and Native Americans.

It's worth noting that most people with these risk factors do not develop colorectal cancer, and some people who develop colorectal cancer have no known risk factors.


The presentation of colorectal cancer can vary depending on the location and stage of the cancer. In the early stages, colorectal cancer may not cause any symptoms, which is why regular screening is important. However, as the cancer grows, it can cause the following symptoms:

  • Changes in bowel habits: This may include constipation, diarrhea, or a change in the consistency of the stool.
  • Abdominal pain: The pain may be dull and achy, or it may be sharp and cramp-like.
  • Blood in the stool: This can be seen as bright red blood or dark, tarry stools.
  • Fatigue: Cancer and cancer treatments can cause fatigue.
  • Anemia: can be caused by blood loss from the tumor and can lead to weakness, fatigue, and shortness of breath.
  • Unexplained weight loss: Cancer and cancer treatments can cause weight loss.
  • Bloating: This can be caused by a tumor blocking the intestine.
  • A feeling of fullness: This can be caused by a tumor blocking the intestine.

It's important to note that these symptoms can be caused by many conditions other than colorectal cancer, but if you have any of these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor for an evaluation.


Treatment for cancer of the colon and rectum typically involves a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. The specific treatment plan will depend on the stage and location of the cancer, as well as the overall health of the patient. Surgery is often the primary treatment for colon and rectal cancer and may involve removal of the affected portion of the colon or rectum, as well as nearby lymph nodes. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy may be used before or after surgery to shrink the tumor and kill any remaining cancer cells. In certain cases, targeted therapy or immunotherapy may also be used. It is important for patients to discuss their treatment options with their healthcare team to determine the best plan for them.


The prognosis (outlook) for patients with colon cancer can vary depending on a number of factors, including the stage of the cancer at the time of diagnosis, the patient's overall health, and the effectiveness of the treatment.

For early stage colon cancer, the five-year survival rate is often greater than 90%. For more advanced stages of the disease, the five-year survival rate may be lower, but can still be in the range of 60-70%.

It is important to note that many patients with colon cancer can be successfully treated and go on to live long, healthy lives. However, early detection through regular screenings is crucial for improving outcomes. It is also important for patients to work closely with their healthcare team to manage any side effects of treatment, and to make lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise, to promote overall health and well-being.