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Rectal cancer

Rectal cancer: Introduction

Rectal cancer is a cancer that grows in the rectum, the last portion of the colon (large intestine). Rectal cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer and one of the top cancer killers. Rectal cancer is treatable and curable if caught early. However, untreated rectal cancer can grow through the intestinal wall and spread to other parts of the body through the blood vessel or lymphatic system, such as to the liver and lungs, and become terminal.

Rectal cancer is also called colorectal cancer. Rectal cancer often develops from noncancerous adenomatous intestinal polyps in the colon that can become malignant or cancerous over time. The exact cause of rectal cancer is unknown, but having adenomatous intestinal polyps that are not removed while still benign increases the risk of developing the disease. Other people at risk for rectal cancer include those who smoke or eat a high fat, low-fiber diet. Advancing age, especially over 50 years is another risk factor, and those with ulcerative colitis or a family history of rectal cancer are also at increased risk.

In their early stages, adenomatous intestinal polyps often produce no symptoms. As rectal cancer develops, symptoms can include a change in bowel movements, bloating and abdominal discomfort, intestinal obstruction, and/or rectal bleeding. Some people may experience no symptoms at all. For more information on symptoms, refer to symptoms of rectal cancer.

Rectal cancer can be detected and diagnosed using a combination of tests, including a fecal occult blood test, a colonoscopy, virtual colonoscopy and/or a barium X-ray of the colon. Another important part of the diagnostic process includes taking a thorough health history, including symptoms, and performing a physical exam and digital rectal exam. A digital rectal exam involves inserting a gloved finger into the rectum to feel for abnormalities, polyps, and to remove a sample of stool to check for blood.

Treatment of rectal cancer varies, depending on the stage of advancement of the disease and other factors. If rectal cancer is in its very earliest stage, has not spread to other organs outside of the colon, and is limited to the inside of a polyp, surgical removal of the polyp may be all that is needed. If rectal cancer has gone beyond this stage or spread outside the colon, treatment may require a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of rectal cancer.

Because there may be no symptoms in early stages and because some symptoms are similar to those of other conditions, it is possible that a diagnosis of rectal cancer can be missed or delayed. In addition, some symptoms of rectal cancer can be similar to symptoms of other diseases and conditions. For more information about misdiagnosis and diseases and conditions that can mimic rectal cancer, refer to misdiagnosis of rectal cancer. ...more »

Rectal cancer: Rectal cancer is a form of colorectal cancer that affects the rectum. It is an under-diagnosed condition because it has no early symptoms. Even when symptoms occur, both the symptoms and the diagnostic tests required are considered embarrassing by many, leading to delayed diagnosis. However, early diagnosis is crucial as colorectal cancer is a leading cause of death. ...more »

Rectal cancer: Symptoms

Symptoms of rectal cancer can vary among individuals. Some people experience no symptoms at all, especially in the early stages of the disease. Rectal cancer often develops from benign adenomatous intestinal polyps, which in themselves generally produce no symptoms.

If adenomatous intestinal polyps are not discovered and removed, they can eventually become cancerous, ...more symptoms »

Rectal cancer: Treatments

Treatment of rectal cancer starts with prevention. Preventive measures include seeking regular medical care throughout the lifetime. Regular medical care allows your health care professional to best evaluate your risks of rectal cancer and promptly screen for the disease with such tests as a digital rectal exam, fecal occult blood test, and a colonoscopy. These measures ...more treatments »

Rectal cancer: Misdiagnosis

A diagnosis of rectal cancer can be missed because the symptoms of the disease can be similar to other diseases, such as hemorrhoids, benign intestinal polyps, ulcerative colitis, diverticulosis, diverticulitis, inflammatory bowel disease, and irritable bowel syndrome.

In addition, there are often no symptoms in the earliest, most curable stage of rectal cancer ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of Rectal cancer

Treatments for Rectal cancer

  • Surgery To remove tumor and prevent obstruction. Anastamosis of the bowel may be possible, or a colostomy may need to be formed
  • Chemotherapy - usually combined with surgical treatment
  • Radiotherapy - usually with palliative rather than curative intention
  • Newer agents
  • more treatments...»

Home Diagnostic Testing

Home medical testing related to Rectal cancer:

Wrongly Diagnosed with Rectal cancer?

Rectal cancer: Related Patient Stories

Rectal cancer: Deaths

Read more about Deaths and Rectal cancer.

Rectal cancer: Complications

Review possible medical complications related to Rectal cancer:

Causes of Rectal cancer

Read more about causes of Rectal cancer.

More information about causes of Rectal cancer:

Disease Topics Related To Rectal cancer

Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, Rectal cancer:

Rectal cancer: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:

Misdiagnosis and Rectal cancer

Chronic digestive conditions often misdiagnosed: When diagnosing chronic symptoms of the digestive tract, there are a variety of conditions that may be misdiagnosed. The best known, irritable more »

Intestinal bacteria disorder may be hidden cause: One of the lesser known causes of diarrhea is an imbalance of bacterial in the gut, sometimes called more »

Antibiotics often causes diarrhea: The use of antibiotics are very likely to cause some level of diarrhea in patients. The reason is more »

Food poisoning may actually be an infectious disease: Many people who come down with "stomach symptoms" like diarrhea assume that it's "something I ate" (i.e. food poisoning). In fact, it's more more »

Mesenteric adenitis misdiagnosed as appendicitis in children: Because appendicitis is one of the more feared conditions for a child with abdominal pain, it can be over-diagnosed (it can, of course, more »

Spitz nevi misdiagnosed as dangerous melanoma skin cancer: One possible misdiagnosis to consider in lieu of melanoma is spitz nevi. See melanoma and spitz more »

Celiac disease often fails to be diagnosed cause of chronic digestive symptoms: One of the most common chronic digestive conditions is celiac disease, a malabsorption disorder with a variety of symptoms (see more »

Chronic digestive diseases hard to diagnose: There is an inherent difficulty in diagnosing the various types of chronic digestive diseases. Some of the better known possibilities are peptic ulcer, colon cancer, more »

Rectal cancer: Research Doctors & Specialists

Research related physicians and medical specialists:

Other doctor, physician and specialist research services:

Hospitals & Clinics: Rectal cancer

Research quality ratings and patient safety measures for medical facilities in specialties related to Rectal cancer:

Choosing the Best Hospital: More general information, not necessarily in relation to Rectal cancer, on hospital performance and surgical care quality:

Rectal cancer: Rare Types

Rare types of diseases and disorders in related medical categories:

Evidence Based Medicine Research for Rectal cancer

Medical research articles related to Rectal cancer include:

Click here to find more evidence-based articles on the TRIP Database

Rectal cancer: Animations

Prognosis for Rectal cancer

Research about Rectal cancer

Visit our research pages for current research about Rectal cancer treatments.

Clinical Trials for Rectal cancer

The US based website lists information on both federally and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.

Some of the clinical trials listed on for Rectal cancer include:

Statistics for Rectal cancer

Rectal cancer: Broader Related Topics

Rectal cancer Message Boards

Related forums and medical stories:

User Interactive Forums

Read about other experiences, ask a question about Rectal cancer, or answer someone else's question, on our message boards:


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