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Colorectal Cancer: Introduction

The colorectoral cancer program at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University offers advanced treatments for colorectoral cancer patients (including gastrointestinal cancer) in Georgia and the Southeast.

What is Colon and Rectal Cancer?

Cancer of the colon or rectum is also called colorectal cancer.

In the United States, colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in men, after skin cancer, prostate cancer and lung cancer. It is also the fourth most common cancer in women, after skin, lung, and breast cancer.

The colon and rectum are parts of the digestive—or gastrointestinal (GI)—system. The purpose of this system is to break down food, absorb nutrients and water, and remove waste from the body.

Food matter is largely broken down in the stomach and then released into the small intestine. Most of the nutrients from food are absorbed in this region of the digestive system. The small intestine continues into the colon, or large intestine, which is divided into four regions (based on location):

  • Ascending Colon
  • Transverse Colon
  • Descending Colon
  • Sigmoid Colon

The main purpose of the colon is to absorb water and mineral nutrients from food matter and store waste. Waste moves from the colon into the final six inches of the digestive system, called the rectum, and passes out of the body through the anus.

About 95 percent of colorectal cancers develop in glandular cells that make up the lining of the colon and rectum. A cancer that begins in a glandular cell is called an adenocarcinoma. Colorectal cancer usually starts in the innermost layer of the lining and slowly progresses through the other layers.

Colorectoral Cancer Questions and Appointments

Contact us for more information about our colorectoral cancer treatment programs.