Rectal cancer is the development of cancerous cells in the lining of the rectum (the last several inches of the large intestine closest to the anus). The stage (extent) of the cancer depends to a great degree on how deep the cancer goes into and beyond the wall of the rectum. Most rectal cancers are called adenocarcinomas.
Because the majority of rectal cancers begin as precancerous polyps, rectal cancer is a potentially preventable disease. Screening and early detection can catch rectal cancer at an early stage or before polyps turn into cancer.1
Cancer of the rectum is rare in developing countries, but is the second most frequent cancer in affluent societies. Worldwide, there are more than 940,000 cases (colorectal) and nearly 500,000 deaths each year.2 Colonoscopy is the most reliable means for early detection. Improved diagnosis and treatment have resulted in a five-year survival rate of 50 percent.2
- What You Need To Know About Cancer of the Colon and Rectum; National Cancer Institute. Available from: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/colon-and-rectal
- Global cancer rates could increase by 50% to 15 million by 2020; World Health Organization. Available from: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2003/pr27/en/