Colorectal cancer is cancer that occurs in the colon or rectum. Sometimes it is called colon cancer, for short. As the drawing shows, the colon is the large intestine or large bowel. The rectum is the passageway that connects the colon to the anus.
Colorectal cancer affects men and women of all racial and ethnic groups, and is most often found in people aged 50 years or older. In the United States, it is the third most common cancer for men and women.
Of cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the United States, but it doesn't have to be. If everybody aged 50 or older had regular screening tests, as many as 60% of deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented.
Colorectal cancer screening saves lives. Screening can find precancerous polyps—abnormal growths in the colon or rectum—so that they can be removed before turning into cancer. Screening also helps find colorectal cancer at an early stage, when treatment often leads to a cure. About nine out of every 10 people whose colorectal cancer is found early and treated are still alive five years later.
If you are aged 50 or older or think you may be at higher than average risk for colorectal cancer, speak with your doctor about getting screened.