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 (vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and water) from foods and helps pass waste material out of the body. The digestive system is made up of the esophagus, stomach, 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 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:
- A family history of cancer of the colon or rectum.
- Certain hereditary conditions, such as familial adenomatous polyposis and hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC; Lynch Syndrome).
- A history of ulcerative colitis (ulcers in the lining of the large intestine) or Crohn disease.
- A personal history of cancer of the colon, rectum, ovary, endometrium, or breast.
A personal history of polyps (small areas of bulging tissue) in the colon or rectum.
Adapted from the National Cancer Institute’s Physician Data Query (PDQ(r)) Cancer Information Summaries (http://www.cancer.gov/
For more information:
Go to the Colon Cancer health topic.