Colorectal Cancer

Types of Colorectal Cancer

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Colorectal cancer, also called colon cancer or rectal cancer, usually begins as a polyp (noncancerous growth) inside the inner lining of the colon or rectum, which are organs that are part of the digestive system.

Rectal Cancer

The rectum is the last part of the large intestine or large bowel. It holds feces (stool) until it is passed through the anus. The rectum is approximately 5 inches in length and sits within the hip bone or pelvis.

Cancers that develop in the rectum are called rectal cancers. Due to their location, rectal cancers are treated slightly differently than colon cancers.

At UT Southwestern, the treatment of rectal cancer is performed by a multidisciplinary team that includes surgeons, oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, radiologists, and geneticists to determine the best approach to care.

Early-Onset Colorectal Cancer

Patients with colorectal cancer are considered early-onset if they were diagnosed before age 50. The incidence of early-onset colorectal cancer has steadily increased since the mid-1990s. Today, approximately 11% of colon cancer cases and 18% of rectal cancer cases are diagnosed before age 50 – and these percentages are rising.

Of patients with early-onset colorectal cancer, 80% are caregivers to children under the age of 18. Given these alarming trends, in 2021, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force lowered the age for starting colorectal cancer screening from 50 to 45 years for individuals at average risk. As part of our colorectal cancer program, we provide specialized care for our early-onset patients .

Colorectal Cancer That Spreads to the Peritoneum

UT Southwestern offers rare expertise in the treatment of colorectal cancer that has spread to the peritoneum (membranes that line/cover the abdominal space). Our advanced treatments include surgery to remove visible tumors in the abdomen combined with hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) – a complex and highly specialized treatment available only at select cancer centers for patients with colorectal cancer that has spread to the peritoneum.

Learn more about peritoneal cancer.

Colorectal Cancer That Spreads to the Liver

The liver is the most common organ where colon and rectal cancer can appear if it spreads beyond the original tumor in the intestine. In some cases, liver tumors may already be present at the time the tumor in the colon or rectum is detected; in others, liver tumors may appear months or years later.

The treatment of colon and rectal cancer that has spread to the liver depends on several factors, including the extent of the cancer’s spread, whether the cancer has spread to other organs besides the liver, and the patient’s overall condition. A combination of therapies is often recommended, and each treatment has different benefits and goals.

Learn more about liver cancer.