What Is Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer starts in the colon or the rectum. These cancers can also be called colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on where they start. Colon cancer and rectal cancer are often grouped together because they have many features in common.
Cancer starts when cells in the body start to grow out of control.
How Do The Colon and Rectum Work?
The colon absorbs water and salt from the remaining food matter after it goes through the small intestine (small bowel). The waste matter that’s left after going through the colon goes into the rectum, the final 6 inches (15cm) of the digestive system. It’s stored there until it passes through the anus. Ring-shaped muscles (also called a sphincter) around the anus keep stool from coming out until they relax during a bowel movement.
The lining of the digestive system can form small, bulging pouches called diverticula. Most people will develop these small pouches in their lifetime. For some, these pouches can become inflamed and lead to a condition called diverticulitis. This can lead to serious complications including pain, fever, scarring, changes in frequency of bathroom visits, and/or blockages.
Some mild cases of diverticulitis can be corrected non-surgically. Severe or recurring diverticulitis can require surgical intervention. Diverticular disease surgery can include a primary bowel resection where the surgeon removes diseased segments of the intestine and reconnects healthy segments. This is often done as a minimally invasive laparoscopic procedure. If the diverticular disease is extensive or impacts the bowel in a way that the colon and rectum cannot be connected, the surgeon will perform a colostomy. During a colostomy, the surgeon creates an opening in the abdominal wall and securely fits a device over the opening. Waste that normally is passed through the colon will be routed out the device into a collection system. Sometimes a colostomy is temporary or permanent. If the colostomy is temporary, a second surgery is required to rejoin the bowel and remove the device.
Additional surgeries may be required if other diverticula pouches appear and become inflamed and/or painful.