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Colorectal cancer can also be referred to as bowel cancer, colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on where the cancer starts.

The bowel is divided into the small bowel (small intestine) and the large bowel (colon and rectum). Most colorectal cancers develop in the innermost lining of the large bowel and develop from small growths called polyps. Polyps are clumps of cells that are not cancer but may develop into cancer over time.

colorectal cancer diagram

Types of colorectal cancer

Colorectal cancer can develop in different areas of the bowel:

  • Colon (the large bowel) – colon cancer forms when uncontrolled cell growth begins within the cells in the large intestine
  • Rectum (the back passage) – rectal cancer forms when uncontrolled cell growth begins within the rectal passage

Rarer types of cancer

  • anal – is a rare type of cancer that affects the very end of the large bowel. Treatment for anal cancer takes place in Belfast City Hospital.
  • small bowel – cancer affecting the small intestine, which lies between the stomach and the large bowel


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