What Is Colo-Rectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer is a term used to refer to cancer that develops in the colon or the rectum. The colon and rectum are parts of the digestive system.

The first and major part of the large bowel, i.e. the colon, continues to absorb water and mineral nutrients from the food matter and serves as a storage place for waste matter. The waste matter left after this process is feces and goes into the rectum, the final 6 inches of the large bowel. From here it passes out of the body through the anus.

The colon has four sections

(a) The first section is called the ascending colon

(b) The second section is called transverse colon.

(c) The third colon is called descending colon.

(d) The fourth part is called the sigmoid colon. The sigmoid colon joins the rectum, which in turn joins the anus, or the opening where waste matter passes out of the body.

The walls of each of these sections of the colon and the rectum have several layers of tissue. Colorectal cancer starts in the innermost layer and can grow through some or all of the other layers. In most people Colorectal cancers develop slowly over a period of several years. Before the symptoms can be felt.

A vast majority of colorectal cancers are adenocarcinoma. These are cancers of the glandular cells that line the inside layer of the wall of the colon and rectum.

Carcinoid tumors develop from specialized hormone-producing cells of the intestine.

Gastrointestinal stromal tumors develop from specialized cells in the walls of the colon called the ‘interstitial cells of the Cajal’.

Some tumors are benign, others are malignant (cancerous). Although these cancers can be found anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract, they are unusual in the colon.

Lymphomas are cancers of the immune system cells that typically develop in lymph nodes but also may start in the colon and rectum or other organs.

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