Colon Cancer Health Center

Colorectal cancer is a common form of cancer that generally is seen in people over the age of 50. Screening for this disease is extremely important and can actually help prevent it.

Cancer always starts in the cells, which make up the tissue that is found in the colon and rectum and throughout the body. Cells have a life of their own – they grow and mature and eventually die off, at which point they’re replaced.

Sometimes, though, something goes haywire – new cells might form even though the body does not need them, and sometimes old or damaged cells do not die off as they are supposed to.

When this happens, cells start to grow and multiply beyond control. Extra cells collect and form a mass. This mass is commonly referred to as a tumor.

Tumors can be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer).

Benign tumors are generally not harmful. Malignant or cancerous tumors, though, can invade nearby tissue and spread to the lymph nodes and other areas of the body. When cancer spreads, this is known as metastasis.

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 or other organs.

Colorectal cancer cells most often spread to the liver.

Review Date: 
March 22, 2012
Last Updated:
June 30, 2013