Endorsed by the European Oncology Nursing Society

Colorectal cancer

Colorectal cancer image

What is colorectal cancer?

  • The colon and the rectum are the final sections of the digestive tract and are often referred to as the bowel1
  • Colorectal cancer is a general term for cancer that begins in either the colon or the rectum1

Types of colorectal cancer

  • There are several types of colorectal cancer, which are named after the cells in which they start2
  • Over 95% of colorectal cases are of a type known as adenocarcinoma1,2
  • Other, far less common, types include squamous cell cancers, carcinoid tumours, sarcomas, gastrointestinal stromal tumours, and lymphomas of the digestive system1,2

Who gets colorectal cancer?

  • Colorectal cancer mostly affects people over the age of 60 years3,4
  • Obesity, smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol, a diet high in processed meats, and physical inactivity may increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer4
  • People with a close family history of colorectal cancer are more likely to get it themselves3,4
  • Suffering from a bowel condition such as Crohn disease or irritable bowel syndrome increases your risk of colorectal cancer3,4
  • It is the 3rd most common cancer worldwide5
  • 1.4 million new cases were diagnosed worldwide in 20125

Screening, detection, and diagnosis

  • Screening using methods such as stool tests and sigmoidoscopy can detect colorectal cancer early 6,7
  • The first tests used to diagnose colorectal cancer are digital rectal examination and sigmoidoscopy; a biopsy may be taken during the sigmoidoscopy procedure8
  • More extensive tests such as colonoscopy and CT colonography may be used; a biopsy may also be taken during the colonoscopy procedure8

Patient guidelines

A patient guideline is a document containing information for patients and their families about their disease and the treatment options available to them

Click here to see the European patient guideline on your condition9

Local support groups

Contacting a support group may help you during diagnosis and treatment and afterwards


The road to hope10

Click here for information on the incidence of colorectal cancer in Europe11



  1. American Cancer Society. What is colorectal cancer? Accessed November 2015.
  2. Cancer Research UK. Types of bowel cancer. Accessed November 2015.
  3. Cancer Research UK. High risk groups for bowel cancer. Accessed November 2015.
  4. NHS Choices. Bowel cancer. Accessed November 2015.
  5. World Cancer Research Fund International. Colorectal cancer statistics. Accessed November 2015.
  6. NHS Choices. Bowel cancer - screening. Accessed November 2015.
  7. American Cancer Society. Can colorectal polyps and cancer be found early? Accessed November 2015.
  8. NHS Choices. Diagnosing bowel cancer. Accessed November 2015.
  9. European Society for Medical Oncology. Colorectal cancer: a guide for patients. Accessed November 2015.
  10. Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Colorectal cancer - the road to hope. Accessed November 2015.
  11. World Health Organization. Cancer of the large bowel - Estimated incidence, mortality & prevalence in men, 2012. Accessed November 2015.