What is Colon Cancer?

The body’s digestive system processes the food and liquids that we consume and prepares them for elimination from the body as waste. The large intestine, or colon, is part of the digestive system, along with the small intestine, esophagus, stomach, rectum (the last portion of the colon), and anus (the opening at the end of the rectum through which wastes passes).

Colon cancer is the formation of cancer cells in the colon. Colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the United States .

Certain people may be at greater risk for developing colorectal or gastrointestinal cancer, including those who:

  • Are over the age of 50
  • Have had other types of cancer, including an earlier case of colon cancer
  • Have family members who have had colon cancer
  • Have had colon polyps (non-cancerous growths in the lining of the colon)
  • Have had ulcerative colitis (ulcers in the colon) or Crohn’s disease (inflammation and ulcers in the colon)
  • Have genetic (inherited) conditions that might make them more likely to have colon cancer

What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer?

Most colorectal cancer patients don’t have any symptoms. However, as colorectal cancer tumors grow, the patient may develop certain symptoms, including:

  • Changes in bathroom routines (i.e., a greater incidence of diarrhea or constipation)
  • Narrow stools
  • Blood in the stool
  • Weight loss
  • Anemia
  • Other gastrointestinal problems, such as vomiting, cramps, bloating, or incomplete emptying after going to the bathroom

Reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional.

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