What Is Colorectal Cancer?

Diagram of the stomach, small intestine, cecum, ascending colon, transverse colon, descending colon, sigmoid colon, and rectum.

This diagram shows the location of the stomach, small intestine, cecum, ascending colon, transverse colon, descending colon, sigmoid colon, and rectum.

Colorectal cancer is cancer that occurs in the colon or rectum. Sometimes it is called colon cancer, for short. As the drawing shows, the colon is the large intestine or large bowel. The rectum is the passageway that connects the colon to the anus.

Sometimes abnormal growths, called polyps, form in the colon or rectum. Over time, some polyps may turn into cancer. Screening tests can find polyps so they can be removed before turning into cancer. Screening also helps find colorectal cancer at an early stage, when treatment works best.

Page last reviewed: January 30, 2019