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What is Colorectal Cancer?

What is Colorectal Cancer?

Does colorectal cancer or colon cancer run in your family? If you are about to turn 45 and you were advised by your physician to undergo a colonoscopy, read this article to understand why getting screened is a life-saving decision. 

What Is Colorectal Cancer?

Often called colon cancer for short, colorectal cancer typically starts as an abnormal growth called polyp in the colon or rectum. Over time, the polyps may turn into colon cancer. 

The colon is the final part of your digestive tract. The rectum connects the colon to the anus.

Most colon cancers are adenocarcinomas. However, there are sub-types of adenocarcinomas, and some have a worse prognosis than others.

What Parts of the Body Are Affected by Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer initially affects the colon or rectum, depending on where it starts. 

The colon and rectum make up the large intestine. The colon is a five-foot-long tubular muscle with four sections: ascending, transverse, descending, sigmoid. 

Cancer begins in the innermost layer, the mucosa, and can grow outward. When cancer cells are present in the wall, they can grow and spread to the blood or lymph vessels. Then they can affect lymph nodes or other parts of the body. 

Early detection can help prevent the spread of cancer to other organs. Screening tests can detect polyps and can be removed before they turn into cancer. 

How Does Colorectal Cancer Develop?

Colon cancer usually starts as tiny, benign clumps of cells. These cells are called polyps. They form on the inside of the colon. Polyps can be small and show no or few symptoms. Over time, the polys can become cancers. However, it may take years for this to happen, and not all polyps become cancer. 

There are several various kinds of polyps. They are:

  • Adenomatous polyps (adenomas)
  • Sessile serrated polyps (SSP) and traditional serrated adenomas (TSA)
  • Hyperplastic polyps and inflammatory polys 

Adenomatous polyps sometimes become cancer. Doctors call this a pre-cancerous condition. There are three varieties of this polyp: tubular, villous, and tubulovillous. 

The SSP and TSA types have a high risk of becoming color cancer, so doctors treat them as pre-cancerous. 

Hyperplastic polyps and inflammatory polyps are quite common. However, they usually aren’t pre-cancerous. Those with large hyperplastic polyps often require cancer screening more often.

Signs and Symptoms

There are several colon cancer symptoms to watch out for. They include:

  • A steady change in bowel movements
  • Bloody stool
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Ongoing abdominal discomfort (cramps, gas, pain)
  • The feeling your bowel doesn’t empty all the way
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Unexplained weight loss

Many people don’t experience symptoms in the early stages of colon cancer. This is why early screening is so important.

Symptoms often come on gradually and vary from person to person, depending on the cancer’s location and size. 

Early Screening Is Key

The CDC recommends regular colorectal cancer screening starting at age 45. However, those with an inflammatory bowel disease, a family history of colon cancer, or another genetic syndrome may need to begin screening earlier.

If you have questions or need emergency medical care, call or visit our emergency room in Bryan, TX. You can trust our compassionate and efficient emergency room staff to provide you with concierge-level care. 


Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “What should I know about screening?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 17 February 2022,

Mullangi S, Lekkala MR. “Adenocarcinoma” National Center for Biotechnology Information, 8 November 2021,

The American Cancer Society. “What is colorectal cancer?” The American Cancer Society, 29 June 2020,

The Mayo Clinic Staff. ” Colon cancer” Mayo Clinic, 11 June 2021,