The colon is the part of the digestive system where the waste material is stored and then eventually evacuated. The rectum is the end of the colon adjacent to the anus. Together, they form a long, muscular tube in your abdomen called the large intestine, also known as the large bowel.
Tumors of the colon and rectum are growths that arise from the inner wall of the large intestine. Some tumor may be benign and are called polyps. Malignant tumors of the large intestine are called cancers. Benign polyps do not invade nearby tissue or spread to other parts of the body. Benign polyps can be easily removed during colonoscopy and are not life-threatening.
However, if benign polyps are not removed from the large intestine, they can become malignant (cancerous) over time. Most of the cancers of the large intestine are believed to have developed from polyps.
It is important to remember, cancer of the colon and rectum (also referred to as colorectal cancer) can invade and damage adjacent tissues and organs. This is why early detection and screening can help save your life. Cancer cells may break away and spread to other parts of the body (such as liver and lung) where new tumors form. The spread of colon cancer to distant organs is called metastasis of the colon cancer. Once metastasis has occurred in colorectal cancer, a complete cure of the cancer significantly decreases.
If you or someone you know is due for a colorectal screening or is over the age of 50 and has not yet been screened please see your doctor for more information.