Colorectal cancer (CRC), also known as bowel cancer and colon cancer, is the development of cancer from the colon or rectum (parts of the large intestine). A cancer is the abnormal growth of cells that have the ability to invade or spread to other parts of the body. Signs and symptoms may include blood in the stool, a change in bowel movements, weight loss, and feeling tired all the time.
Most colorectal cancers are due to old age and lifestyle factors with only a small number of cases due to underlying genetic disorders. Some risk factors include diet, obesity, smoking, and lack of physical activity. Dietary factors that increase the risk include red and processed meat as well as alcohol. Another risk factor is inflammatory bowel disease, which includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Some of the inherited genetic disorders that can cause colorectal cancer include familial adenomatous polyposis and hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer; however, these represent less than 5% of cases. It typically starts as a benign tumor, often in the form of a polyp, which over time becomes cancerous.
Treatments used for colorectal cancer may include some combination of surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and targeted therapy. Cancers that are confined within the wall of the colon may be curable with surgery while cancer that has spread widely are usually not curable, with management being directed towards improving quality of life and symptoms. Five year survival rates in the United States are around 65%
The treatment of colorectal cancer can be aimed at cure or palliation. The decision on which aim to adopt depends on various factors, including the person's health and preferences, as well as the stage of the tumor. When colorectal cancer is caught early, surgery can be curative. However, when it is detected at later stages (for which metastases are present), this is less likely and treatment is often directed at palliation, to relieve symptoms caused by the tumour and keep the person as comfortable as possible.