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Colorectal cancer types

Every colorectal cancer patient is different. The cancer experts at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) have extensive experience in properly staging and diagnosing the disease, and developing a treatment plan that's tailored to your specific type of colorectal cancer.

Though both colon cancer and rectal cancer can be referred to as colorectal cancer, the difference lies in where the cancer actually began.

If the cancer began in the colon, which is the first four to five feet of the large intestine, it may be referred to as colon cancer. If the cancer began in the rectum, which is the last several inches of the large intestine leading to the anus, it is called rectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer starts in the inner lining of the colon and/or rectum, slowly growing through some or all of its layers. It typically starts as a growth of tissue called a polyp. A particular type of polyp called an adenoma can develop into cancer.

colorectal cancer types

Colorectal adenocarcinoma

A cancer of the intestinal gland cells, adenocarcinomas represent more than 95 percent of colon and rectal cancers. “Adeno” is the prefix for gland, and adenocarcinomas typically start within the intestinal gland cells that line the inside of the colon and/or rectum. They tend to start in the inner layer and then spread deeper to other layers. There are two main subtypes of adenocarcinoma:

  • Mucinous adenocarcinoma is made up of approximately 60 percent mucus. The mucus can cause cancer cells to spread faster and become more aggressive than typical adenocarcinomas. Mucinous adenocarcinomas account for 10 to 15 percent of all colon and rectal adenocarcinomas.
  • Signet ring cell adenocarcinoma accounts for less than one percent of adenocarcinomas. Named for its appearance under a microscope, signet ring cell adenocarcinoma is typically aggressive and may be more difficult to treat.

Colorectal adenocarcinoma treatment options

The most common form of colorectal adenocarcinoma treatment is surgery. Other treatments include chemotherapy, targeted therapy and radiation therapy.

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Why nutrition matters

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Our experts answer questions about nutritional needs for people with cancer.

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