Rectal Cancer Health Center

Colorectal cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Early diagnosis, though, can often lead to a complete cure.

Almost all colon cancers start in glands in the lining of the colon and rectum. When doctors talk about colorectal cancer, this is usually what they are talking about.

There is no single cause of colon cancer. Nearly all colon cancers begin as noncancerous (benign) polyps, which slowly develop into cancer. Benign tumors are not cancer, are rarely life-threatening, most can be removed, they usually do not grow back, and they typically do not invade the tissues around them.

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. This spreading of now malignant cells is referred to as metastastes. Malignant tumors are generally more serious than benign tumors and may be life-threatening. They also can often be removed but may grow back.

Review Date: 
March 29, 2012
Last Updated:
July 2, 2013