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Colorectal Cancer

What Is Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer occurs when cells in the colon (large intestine) and/or rectum (end section of intestine just before the anus) begin to grow out of control. The disease usually starts in polyps, growths that form on the intestinal lining. Adenomatous polyps (adenomas) are the type most likely to become cancerous, while hyperplastic or inflammatory polyps are much less likely to develop cancer.

While the precise causes of colorectal cancer are unknown, the disease is associated with a number of risk factors, including:

  • Environmental factors, such as smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity or eating a diet high in red and processed meats.

  • Genetic changes acquired over the course of a lifetime, which accounts for the vast majority of cases.

  • Inherited genetic conditions, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), MYH-associated polyposis (MAP), Lynch syndrome and Peutz-Jeghers syndrome.

  • Personal history of intestinal polyps or inflammatory bowel disease, or a family history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps.


In the early stages, colorectal cancer often does not cause symptoms. When symptoms do occur they may include:

  • Abdominal discomfort — Discomfort such as bloating, cramps, gas or pain may develop.

  • Bowel habit changes — Bowel changes may include diarrhea, constipation, unusually narrow stools or a sensation that the bowl does not completely empty.

  • Rectal bleeding — Blood in the stool may be bright red or very dark.

  • Fatigue — Persistent, unexplained tiredness or weakness may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting or weight loss.

Treatment Options

Treatment options vary depending on the type and stage of colorectal cancer, and may include:

  • Colonoscopy — If the tumor is still in the early stages, it may be removed by colonoscopy.

  • Chemotherapy — Anti-cancer drugs taken by mouth or injected to kill cancer cells or stop them from multiplying.

  • Radiation therapy — May be used to shrink tumors before removal, or after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells or prevent their growth.

  • Surgery — May be used to remove cancerous tissue or destroy the tissue in place.

  • Targeted therapy — Also called biologic therapy or immunotherapy, targeted drugs stimulate the body’s immune system to kill cancer cells or stop them from growing.

Ready for an Appointment?

If you're experiencing signs or symptoms of colorectal cancer, schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.

Learn more about our doctors and care team who diagnose and treat colorectal cancer.

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