The colon and rectum are part of your digestive system. The colon is the first four to five feet of the large intestine and the rectum is the last five inches. Colorectal cancer typically grows slowly over a period of years, beginning as a polyp or small growth of tissue. It is the fourth most common cancer in both men and women after skin, prostate or breast and lung, with about 143,000 new diagnoses estimated for 2012 in the United States.
Risk factors for colorectal cancer include family history of the disease, polyps or growths on the inner wall of the colon or rectum, diets high in fat and low in fiber, ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease (both causing inflammation of the colon) and smoking. Common late stage symptoms include diarrhea, constipation, unexpected weight loss, nausea or vomiting, gas cramps, fatigue or blood in your stool.