Rectal Cancer Facts
Rectal Cancer Overview
The rectum is the lower part of the colon that connects the large bowel to the anus. The rectum's primary function is to store formed stool in preparation for evacuation. Like the colon, the three layers of the rectal wall are as follows:
In addition to these three layers, another important component of the rectum is the surrounding lymph nodes (also called regional lymph nodes). Lymph nodes are part of the immune system and assist in conducting surveillance for harmful materials (including viruses and bacteria) that may be threatening the body. Lymph nodes surround every organ in the body, including the rectum.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates about 93,000 new cases of colon cancer and 39,600 new cases of rectal cancer will occur in 2015. Males are more likely than females to develop rectal cancer (about 23,000 males to 16,000 females in 2015). The most common type of rectal cancer is adenocarcinoma (95%), which is a cancer arising from the mucosa. Cancer cells can also spread from the rectum to the lymph nodes on their way to other parts of the body.
Like colon cancer, the prognosis and treatment of rectal cancer depends on how deeply the cancer has invaded the rectal wall and surrounding lymph nodes (its stage, or extent of spread). However, although the rectum is part of the colon, the location of the rectum in the pelvis poses additional challenges in treatment when compared with colon cancer.
This article only discusses issues related to rectal adenocarcinoma.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/22/2015
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