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What Is Colorectal Cancer?

Understanding colorectal cancer

Colorectal cancer — also called colon cancer or rectal cancer — happens when cells that are not normal grow in your colon or rectum. These cells grow together and form tumors.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States. When it's found early, it's easily treated and often cured. But because it usually is not found early, it is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.

Colorectal cancer occurs most often in people older than 50 and the risk increases with age. Screening tests can prevent this cancer, but fewer than half of people older than 50 are screened.

Alternative names

Colorectal cancer has many names:

  • Colorectal cancer
  • Cancer — colon
  • Rectal cancer
  • Cancer-rectum
  • Adenocarcinoma-colon
  • Colon-adenocarcinoma