Colon Cancer Information

What is Colon Cancer?

To best understand the following colon cancer information, it is important to first understand how your digestive system works. The colon and rectum are parts of the body's digestive system. Your digestive system is responsible for removing nutrients from food and storing waste until it passes out of the body. Together, the colon and rectum form a long, muscular tube called the large intestine (also called the large bowel). The colon is the first 6 feet of the large intestine, and the rectum is the last 8 to 10 inches.

Understanding Colon Cancer

Cancer that begins in the colon is called colon cancer, and cancer that begins in the rectum is called rectal cancer. Cancers affecting either of these organs may also be referred to as colorectal cancer. When colorectal cancer spreads outside of the colon or rectum, cancer cells are often found in nearby lymph nodes. If cancer cells have reached these nodes, they may also have spread to other lymph nodes, the liver, or other organs.

When colon cancer or rectal cancer spreads (metastasizes) from its original location to another part of the body, the new tumor has the same kind of abnormal cancer cells and the same name as the primary tumor. For example, if colon cancer spreads to the liver, the cancer cells in the liver are actually colorectal cancer cells. The disease is metastatic colorectal cancer, not liver cancer. It is treated as colorectal cancer, not liver cancer. Doctors sometimes call the new tumor "distant" or metastatic disease.

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