What is Colorectal Cancer?
How Tumors Form
The body is made up of many types of cells. Normally, cells grow, divide, and produce more cells as needed to keep the body healthy and functioning properly. Sometimes, however, the process goes wrong -- cells become abnormal and form more cells in an uncontrolled way. These extra cells form a mass of tissue, called a growth or tumor. Tumors can be benign, which means not cancerous, or malignant, which means cancerous.
How Colorectal Cancer Develops
Cancer of the colon or rectum is called colorectal cancer. The colon and the rectum are part of the large intestine, which is part of the digestive system. Colorectal cancer occurs when tumors form in the lining of the large intestine, also called the large bowel.
Colorectal cancer accounts for almost ten percent of all cancer deaths in the United States. The risk of developing colorectal cancer rises after age 50. It is common in both men and women.
Colorectal Cancer Can Spread
Sometimes, cancer cells break away from the malignant tumor and enter the bloodstream or the lymphatic system where they travel to other organs in the body. Among other things, the lymphatic system transports white blood cells that fight infection.
When cancer travels or spreads from its original location in the colon to another part of the body such as the liver, it is called metastatic colorectal cancer and not liver cancer. When colorectal cancer does spread, it tends to spread to the liver or lungs.
Cure Rate for Early Detection
Today there are more ways than ever to treat colorectal cancer. As with almost all cancers, the earlier it is found, the more likely that the treatment will be successful. If colon cancer is detected in its early stages, it is up to 90 percent curable.