Rectal Cancer

Rectal cancer is a disease in which cancerous (malignant) cells grow in the tissues of the rectum. The rectum is the tube that connects the colon (large intestine) to the anus, the opening where stool leaves the body.

Our specialists diagnose and treat all stages of rectal cancer. About 40,000 people are diagnosed with rectal cancer each year in the U.S.

Learn more about rectal cancer diagnosis and our rectal cancer specialists.

Why should I choose Henry Ford for rectal cancer care?

Our comprehensive rectal cancer care includes:

  • Screening options: It’s important to get regular colorectal cancer screenings. These tests can prevent rectal cancer or detect it at an early stage, when treatment is easier and more effective.
  • Advanced treatment options: We offer minimally invasive rectal cancer surgery, including robotic surgery. These procedures require fewer incisions and promote faster healing and quicker recovery. Our team also continually develops new treatment options through research and cancer clinical trials.
  • Full education and support: We prepare you for what to expect from colorectal cancer care. Learn more about our colorectal cancer support services.

Rectal cancer symptoms

If you experience symptoms associated with rectal cancer, schedule an appointment with a colorectal cancer specialist. Common symptoms and signs of rectal cancer include:

  • Bleeding from the rectum (often the main symptom)
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Changes in bowel movements: diarrhea, constipation, or difficulty passing stool or emptying the bowels completely
  • Fatigue or tiredness, shortness of breath, dizziness and/or a fast heartbeat
  • Feeling full or bloated
  • Stools that are narrower than usual or colored bright red or black because of blood in the stool
  • Pain in the rectum or abdomen
  • Unexplained weight loss

Rectal cancer causes and risk factors

Doctors do not know what causes most rectal cancer. The risk factors that can increase your chances of developing the disease are also not clear, but appear to include:

  • Age: More than 90 percent of people with rectal cancer are older than 40, though rectal cancer can affect people of any age. Rectal cancer diagnosed at a young age may have a genetic link, so we may recommend genetic counseling.
  • Family history: As many as one in five people diagnosed with rectal cancer have other family members who also had the disease. In some cases, an inherited genetic syndrome runs in these families, with Henry Ford’s Cancer Genetics Program able to provide counseling and testing. Inherited syndromes that raise rectal cancer risk include:
    • Familial adenomatous polyposis
    • Peutz-Jeghers syndrome
    • Lynch syndrome, or hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer syndrome (HNPCC)
  • Rectal polyps: These abnormal growths may develop into rectal cancer.
  • Lifestyle choices: Obesity, smoking, heavy alcohol use and eating a diet high in red meat have been linked to rectal cancer.
  • Ulcerative colitis: This inflammatory bowel disease can cause rectal cancer over time. Learn more about ulcerative colitis.

Rectal cancer treatment

We use the safest, most effective treatments for rectal cancer, usually recommending surgery with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. Our goal is treatment that’s effective but also preserves the function of the rectum, which doctors can’t replace.

Our rectal cancer specialists will explain your individualized treatment plan and answer your questions. You’ll decide your course of care together.

Learn more about our colorectal cancer treatment.

Newly diagnosed?

Contact the cancer team 24/7 by calling (888) 777-4167.

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