The colon (large bowel) is the first part of the large intestine and is about five feet long. Together, the rectum and anal canal make up the last part of the large intestine and are about 6-8 inches long and end at the anus, the opening of the large intestine to the outside of the body. Colon or rectal cancer can occur anywhere along the length of the colon, rectum, and anus.
Colon cancer is unique because it is preventable with early detection. Other cancers may be caught early but are already cancers. Colon cancer is often preceded by precancerous lesions (polyps) that can be removed, preventing the cancer from ever happening. Even when caught as cancer, it can be curable in the early stages. However, it is still the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S.
Most colon cancers are adenocarcinomas (cancers that begin in cells that make and release mucus and other fluids). They often begin as a growth called a polyp, which may form on the inner wall of the colon or rectum. Some polyps become cancer over time. Finding and removing polyps can prevent colon cancer.
Other types of cancer that occur far less often but can begin in the colon (or rectum) include:
- Carcinoid tumors: These tumors form from a certain type of neuroendocrine cell and the majority are found within the GI tract. Neuroendocrine cells produce hormones that aid in the control of digestive juices and muscles used in propelling food through both the stomach and the intestines. Likewise, a GI carcinoid tumor can also make hormones and release them into the body. Some are found inside the colon, but most occur in the small intestine, rectum, and appendix.
- Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST): This type of tumor of the GI tract is uncommon. Most start in the small intestine, but GISTs can begin anywhere along the GI tract.
- Small cell carcinoma: Colorectal small cell carcinoma (SmCC) is a rare tumor with an aggressive course.
- Lymphoma: Intestinal lymphoma is very rare and is usually non-Hodgkin lymphoma originated in the B or T-cells. Patients are typically treated with standard lymphoma therapies.
- Peritoneal carcinomatosis (PC): This rare type of cancer occurs in the peritoneum, the thin layer of tissue that covers the abdominal organs and surrounds the abdominal cavity. The disease develops when cancers of the appendix, colon, ovaries or other organs spread to the peritoneum and grow tumors there. Almost 90 percent of cases of PC are metastases from colon cancer.
Why Choose Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center?
Your team is composed of world-renowned experts who treat colorectal cancer. That specialization and depth of expertise can mean the difference between a correct comprehensive diagnosis and delivery of the most targeted treatments, and a cancer that is underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed, resulting in treatments that aren’t targeted and outcomes that aren’t the nation’s best.
Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center is the first in South Florida to deliver HIPEC (hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemoperfusion) or hot chemo to cancers that have spread through the abdominal cavity. The one-time treatment is done in the operating room at UM Hospital, right after the cancer is removed and gets the chemotherapy right to the site of the cancer.