Rectal Cancer

Rectal cancer occurs when cancerous cells develop in the tissue of the rectum. The rectum is the last part of the large intestine and leads to the anus, which is the opening to the outside of the body. Body waste is stored in the rectum until it is eliminated from the body through the anus.

Although rectal cancer is a life-threatening disease, it is a highly curable form of cancer if found early. Therefore, regular check-ups and screenings are very important.

Although the exact cause of rectal cancer is unknown, certain risk factors have been identified that may increase a person’s chance of developing the disease. These include:

Signs and Symptoms

Common signs and symptoms of rectal cancer include:

  • A change in bowel habits
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
  • Blood, either bright red or very dark in the stool
  • Stools that are narrower than usual
  • General abdominal discomfort such as frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness or cramps
  • Weight loss with no known reason
  • Constant tiredness
  • Vomiting
Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.