Rectal Cancer

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Rectal cancer. Tumor. Oncology. Medical anatomy illustration.
Rectal cancer is a malignancy (cancerous tumor) located within the rectum, the last part of the digestive tract, just before the anus. The rectum stores waste material until your body eliminates it through a bowel movement. The most common type of rectal cancer is called an adenocarcinoma.
Causes of rectal cancer

Though doctors do not know the cause of rectal cancer, risk factors include:

  • Age (especially over 40)
  • Having inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) (such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis or certain inherited family syndromes, such as Lynch syndrome)
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Obesity
  • Personal or family history of colorectal cancer
  • Smoking
Symptoms of rectal cancer

Symptoms can include:

  • Change in bowel habits
  • Fatigue
  • Fecal incontinence (inability to control stool)
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Rectal pain
  • Unintentional weight loss

Some people with rectal cancer don’t experience any symptoms, and doctors only find it on a routine colonoscopy.

Surgical treatment for rectal cancer
Treatment for rectal cancer depends on the stage at the time of diagnosis. Doctors diagnose this cancer using imaging tools such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computerized tomography (CT) scans. After a diagnosis, your specialist may recommend a transanal endoscopic removal of the tumor, a proctectomy (surgical removal of all or part of the rectum), chemotherapy, radiation or a combination of all these treatments. Your North Carolina Surgery team will help you plan the most effective treatment based on many different factors, which we will discuss during your consultation in our clinic.