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Colon Cancer

What is Colon Cancer?

Colon cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the colon.

The colon is part of the body’s digestive system. The digestive system removes and processes nutrients (vitaminsmineralscarbohydrates, fats, proteins, and water) from foods and helps pass waste material out of the body. The digestive system is made up of the esophagusstomach, and the small and large intestines. The colon (large bowel) is the first part of the large intestine and is about 5 feet long. Together, the rectum and anal canal make up the last part of the large intestine and are about 6-8 inches long. The anal canal ends at the anus (the opening of the large intestine to the outside of the body).

Gastrointestinal (digestive) system anatomy; shows esophagus, liver, stomach, colon, small intestine, rectum, and anus.
Anatomy of the lower digestive system, showing the colon and other organs.

Gastrointestinal stromal tumors can occur in the colon. 

Health history can affect the risk of developing colon cancer.

Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. Talk with your doctor if you think you may be at risk. Risk factors include the following:

Adapted from the National Cancer Institute's Physician Data Query (PDQ(r)) Cancer Information Summaries (http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq). Date last modified: March 2, 2015

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Last Reviewed: Apr 03, 2015