Rectal Cancer

The rectum is part of the digestive track located in the lower part of the colon (the large intestine) that connects the large bowel to the anus.  The primary function of the rectum is to store formed stool in preparation for elimination.  When cancer of the rectum forms, it usually occurs in the lining.  When cancer forms in the colon or in the rectum, the cancer is sometimes referred to as colorectal cancer. Because treatment and progression of colon cancer and rectal cancer may be different, they are often reported separately.  Rectal cancer is more likely to produce symptoms prior to diagnosis than colon cancers because the tumor is much closer to the anus thus a passage of blood in the stool is visible.  There are about 36,500 cases of rectal cancer diagnosed per year in the United States.  Together, colon and rectal cancers account for 10% of cancers in men and 11% of cancers in women.  Early screening (via a colonoscopy) can help catch the cancer early—usually while it is still in a polyp stage.

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