Difference Between Colon & Rectal Cancer
- Colon cancer, as defined by the National Cancer Institute, is cancer that develops in the colon, the longest segment of the large intestine. Rectal cancer forms in the rectum, the last 6 inches of the large intestine leading to the anus. The term colorectal cancer refers to both colon and rectal cancer.
- Risk factors for both colon and rectal cancer include age (most people who get colorectal cancer are over 50), presence of polyps in the colon or rectum and a family history of colorectal cancer. Other risk factors include a personal history of cancer, a diet high in fat, smoking and a history of Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis.
- A change in bowel habits is a common symptom of both colon and rectal cancer. You may have constipation or diarrhea, a feeling that the bowel doesn't completely empty, narrow stools and a bloated or gassy feeling. Other symptoms include fatigue, unexplained weight loss and nausea or vomiting.
- Screening recommendations are the same for colon cancer and rectal cancer. Guidelines provided by the American Cancer Society recommend that persons with no known risk factors begin routine screening at age 50.
- Treatment for colon cancer is usually surgery, sometimes combined with chemotherapy. People with colon cancer rarely need a colostomy. Surgery is also the most common treatment for rectal cancer, but some people have radiation and chemotherapy in addition to the surgery. Approximately one out of eight persons with rectal cancer requires a permanent colostomy, according to the National Cancer Institute.