Rectal Cancer Information

What is Rectal Cancer?

There is a lot of rectal cancer information available. In order to best understand it, you should first understand how your digestive system works. The colon and rectum are parts of the body's digestive system. It removes nutrients from food and stores 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 Rectal 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 two digestive system organs may also be referred to as colorectal cancer.

When colorectal cancer spreads outside 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 cancer spreads (metastasizes) from its original place to another part of the body, the new tumor has the same kind of abnormal cells and the same name as the primary tumor. For example, if rectal cancer spreads to the liver, the cancer cells in the liver are actually rectal 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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