Rectal cancer

Rectal cancer is a disease in which cancerous (malignant) cells are found in the tissues of the rectum.

The rectum is part of the digestive system. The digestive system extracts and processes nutrients (such as vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and water) from food and stores waste until it is expelled from the body.

The digestive system consists of the esophagus, stomach, and small and large intestines. The last 6 feet of intestine are called the large intestine or colon, while the last 6 inches make up the rectum and anal canal. The anal canal ends in the anus (opening of the rectum to the outside of the body).

Age and family history can affect the risk of developing rectal cancer. The following are possible risk factors for rectal cancer:

  • Be 50 years of age or older
  • Family history of colon or rectal cancer
  • Personal history of colon, rectum, ovarian, endometrial, or breast cancer
  • History of ulcerative colitis (ulcers in the lining of the large intestine
  • Certain inherited conditions, such as familial adenomatous polyposis and hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC; Lynch syndrome)