NCCN Guidelines for Patients™: Colon Cancer
Within the body, cancer often occurs in the colon or
rectum. In fact, colorectal cancer is the fourth most
common cancer. It is also the second most common
cause of death from cancer. In recent years, fewer
people have been diagnosed with or have died from
colorectal cancer. This good news is likely due to better
cancer screening and treatment. The information in these
guidelines is about the treatment of adults with cancer in
the colon. Treatment for rectal cancer is reviewed in other
guidelines. Part 2 starts with explaining the colon, colon
cancer, and screening tests.
2.1 What is the colon?
The colon is an organ in the body that is part of the
digestive system. The digestive system changes food into
small parts for the body to use as energy. Food passes
from the mouth to the esophagus and into the stomach
(Figure 2). From the stomach, food passes through the
small intestine and then through the large intestine. The
intestine is also called the bowel or gut. Unused food
leaves the body through the anus.
The colon is part of the large intestine. It is about 5
feet long. Its four parts are the ascending, transverse,
descending, and sigmoid colon (Figure 3). The colon
changes unused food from a liquid into a solid form by
absorbing water. This solid, unused food is called feces
About colon cancer
• The colon is a common place for cancer to
form in the body.
• The colon changes eaten food from a liquid
into a solid form.
• Colon cancer often starts in a polyp—an extra
growth of the colon wall.
• Your chances for colon cancer are higher if a
blood relative has had colon cancer.
• Tests can find colon cancer early.
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