Peel Public Health...serving the communities of Brampton, Caledon and Mississauga

Arrow BulletColorectal Cancer

What is Colorectal Cancer?

  • Colorectal cancer refers to two parts of your lower intestine: the colon (large intestine) and the rectum
  • Cancer is an abnormal growth of cells that divide without any control.
  • Cancer develops when cells that line the inside of your colon or rectum start to grow out of control.
  • Majority of colorectal cancers are Adenocarcinomas. This means that cancer occurs when a change (i.e. mutation) occurs in the cells that line the wall of the colon or rectum.

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Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (ad-in-O-mut-us pah-li-PO-sis) (FAP)

FAP - An inherited condition in which numerous polyps (growths that protrude from mucous membranes) form on the inside walls of the colon and rectum. It increases the risk for colorectal cancer. Also called familial polyposis.

Hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC)

HNPCC - An inherited disorder in which affected individuals have a higher-than-normal chance of developing colorectal cancer and certain other types of cancer, often before the age of 50. Also called Lynch syndrome

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Colon & Digestive System

The colon is one organ that is a part of the Digestive system.

Digestion is a process where by food is broken down in order to get energy and nutrients for the body to use. The rectum is the lower end of the colon where waste matter (stool) is collected and let out of the body through the anus.


  1. After food is chewed and swallowed, it travels through the esophagus into the stomach.
  2. In the stomach, food is partially broken down and sent to the small intestine.
  3. The small intestine continues to breakdown the food and also absorbs most of the nutrients.
  4. The breakdown of food then moves into the large bowel or colon. Here the colon absorbs fluids, minerals and certain vitamins.
  5. The remnants are then disposed of through the rectum and anal canal in stool as a bowel movement.

Anatomy of the (Normal) Lower Digestive System
(showing the colon and other organs)

Anatomy of the (Normal) Lower Digestive System

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Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer

  • Change in bowel habits
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Blood (either bright red or very dark) in the stool
  • Stools that are narrower than usual
  • General stomach discomfort (bloating, fullness and/or cramps)
  • Frequent gas pains
  • Weight loss with no known reason
  • Constant tiredness
  • Vomiting

These symptoms may be caused by colorectal cancer or by other conditions. Check with your family doctor.

Source: Canadian Cancer Society. Signs and Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer

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Risk Factors & Facts

Risk Factors

  • Men and women age 50 and older
  • People with a personal or family history of colorectal cancer (first degree relative)  or benign (not cancerous) colorectal polyps
  • People with a personal or family history of inflammatory bowel disease - ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
  • People with a family history of inherited colorectal cancer
  • Having a poor diet, notably one high in red meat consumption
    and low in fibre, fruits and vegetables
  • Having a personal history of ovarian, endometrial or breast cancer
  • People who use tobacco
  • People who are obese and/or sedentary

Source: Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada. Just the Facts - Colorectal Risk Factors

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ColonCancerCheck Program

The ColonCancerCheck Program is an organized Provincial Cancer Screening Program

  • The program reminds men and women to get screened for colorectal cancer with a Fecal Occult Blood Test kit every 2 years if you are 50 years of age and older.
  • If individuals have a family history of colorectal cancer the program recommends individuals to be screened with a colonoscopy.

It is important for men and women who think they are at a high risk for colorectal cancer to speak with their family doctors or healthcare providers about what screening is best for them.

For more information visit the ColonCancerCheck Program

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Colorectal Cancer insitu (within the colon)

Colorectal Cancer insitu (within the colon)

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Lifestyle Changes

  • Get regular screening tests
  • Exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains
  • Be smoke free
  • Limit your alcohol use

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Related Links

To learn more about Colorectal cancer visit:

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Revised: Friday August 26 2016

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