Colorectal cancer

This page was reviewed under our medical and editorial policy by Maurie Markman, MD, President, Medicine & Science

This page was updated on July 20, 2022.

While colorectal cancer (of the colon and/or rectum) is the fourth most common cancer in the United States in terms of overall annual diagnoses, it's the third common cancer among men (behind lung and prostate cancer) and in women (behind breast and lung cancer), according to American Cancer Society (ACS) statistics. An estimated 106,590 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2024, according to the ACS. The earlier colorectal cancer is found, the better the chances of survival. About 65 percent of patients are still alive five years after a diagnosis, according to the SEER Program. If colorectal cancer is detected before it’s spread to other parts of the body, the five-year survival rate increases to 90 percent.

No colorectal cancer patient is the same. Get personalized treatment.

Colorectal cancer is such an important focus at City of Hope that our hospitals in Atlanta, Chicago and Phoenix has a GI Cancer Center dedicated to treating patients with all stages of gastrointestinal disease. Our gastroenterologists and oncologists understand the complexities of colorectal cancer and the array of treatment options available. Your care regimen is designed to help you maintain your quality of life, while providing treatment options targeted to your cancer type and stage. At City of Hope, we take an supportive approach to patient care, combining evidence-based colorectal cancer treatments with side-effect management techniques, to treat not just the disease but the whole person.

This overview will cover the basic facts about colorectal cancer, including:

If you believe you may be experiencing symptoms of colorectal cancer and want to schedule an appointment for diagnostic testing, or if you’re interested in a second opinion on your colorectal cancer diagnosis, call us or chat online with a member of our team.

What causes colorectal cancer?

Who gets colorectal cancer?

Some risk factors may increase a person’s chances of developing this disease, including:

  • Age (after 50)
  • Race and ethnicity (African-American, American Indian, Alaska Native or Ashkenazi Jewish heritage)
  • Family history of colorectal cancer or polyps
  • History of colon polyps, especially if they were large, numerous, or showed certain abnormal noncancerous cells (dysplasia)
  • Previous colorectal cancer diagnosis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including ulcerative colitis (UC) or Crohn’s disease
  • Certain genetic syndromes, such as Lynch syndrome or familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
  • Type 2 diabetes

Lifestyle factors that may increase the risk of colorectal cancer include:

  • Diet high in fat, red meats and/or processed meats
  • Unhealthy weight or obesity, especially for men
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Moderate to heavy alcohol consumption
  • Tobacco use
Mike Fincham

Mike F.

Colorectal Cancer

" My wife and family supported me through this hard time, and with their care along with the care provided by City of Hope, I can now be here for them. I am so thankful God led us there!"


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Colorectal cancer symptoms

Symptoms may include:

  • Incomplete bowel movements (the feeling of being unable to empty bowels completely)
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool
  • Thin, ribbon-like stools
  • Diarrhea and/or constipation
  • Stomach pains, bloating, fullness or cramps that occur frequently and don’t go away
  • Unexplained weight loss and/or loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Bowel habit changes

While colorectal cancer may cause these symptoms, other conditions may cause them, too. Patients who notice any of these symptoms should visit their doctor.

Learn more about symptoms of colorectal cancer

Types of colorectal cancer

Diagnosing colorectal cancer

Colorectal cancer may be detected and treated early with a proper screening regimen.

A number of tests are available to diagnose colorectal cancer. In fact, a combination of these tests may be needed to make a diagnosis:

Learn more about colorectal cancer diagnosis and detection

Creating a colorectal cancer treatment plan

Understanding your colorectal cancer treatment options

Colorectal cancer treatments may be localized, focusing on a tumor, or systemic, using drugs to fight cancer cells throughout the body. A treatment plan is determined by the cancer’s stage and extent of the disease.

When caught early, colorectal cancer may be treated with a colonoscopy to remove polyps or cancerous cells from the lining of the colon. Advanced diseases may require surgery to remove some of, or, in rare cases, the entire colon, as well as nearby lymph nodes.

Other treatment options include immunotherapy, targeted therapy, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Your multidisciplinary team of colorectal cancer experts will answer your questions and recommend treatment options based on your unique diagnosis and needs.

Surgery is the most common treatment option for colorectal cancer. Other treatment options include:

Learn more about treatment options for colorectal cancer

Diagnosis and treatment options at our GI Cancer Centers