Colorectal cancer, also known as bowel cancer, is a cancer caused by uncontrolled cell growth in the colon or rectum. Colorectal cancer is clinically distinct from anal cancer, which affects the anus.
Most begin as a small growth on the bowel wall: a colorectal polyp or adenoma. These often times mushroom-shaped growths are usually benign, but some develop into cancer over time. Colorectal cancers start in the lining of the bowel. If left untreated, it can grow into the muscle layers underneath, and then through the bowel wall.
Invasive cancers that are confined within the wall of the colon (TNM stages I and II) are often curable with surgery, usually over 90% of patients diagnosed at this stage will survive the disease beyond 5 years. However, if left untreated, the cancer can spread to regional lymph nodes (stage III). Around 50% of patients diagnosed at this stage survive the disease beyond five years. Cancer that has spread widely around the body (stage IV) is usually not curable, only 10-20% survive beyond 5 years. Colorectal cancer affects both men and women of all racial and ethnic groups.
The taboo surrounding cancer and in many countries the embarrassement of colorectal cancer contributes to the late diagnosis of the disease. There is often a lack of understanding of the symptoms, the risks and the prevention of the disease. In many countries there is also a low awareness of treatment choice and patient options. Above all in many European countries there is severe underfunding for the treatment of cancer. Colorectal cancer is one of the most highly treatable of all the gastrointestinal cancers and with early diagnosis and effective treatment people can live with colorectal cancer.
What is Colorectal Cancer Leaflet