Miami Cancer Institute’s renowned gastrointestinal cancer specialists combine medical expertise and compassionate care to provide the best treatment options for our patients. Our colorectal cancer specialists have access to a range of cutting-edge technologies to diagnose and treat your specific cancer, with the goal of creating a personalized plan that effectively treats your cancer.

Our multidisciplinary team consists of internationally renowned oncologists who focus on the whole patient; from diagnosis, to treatment, to post-cancer life. Each individualized colorectal cancer care plan includes innovative treatments and services, such as nutritional advice, physical rehabilitation and pain management, to address your whole journey as a patient. Not only do we focus on the treatment that is right for your cancer, we focus on the treatment that is right for you as a patient. In some cases, a clinical trial may be available to treat your cancer. Your care team will work closely with you to find a trial that fits your cancer type and stage.

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What is rectal cancer?

Rectal cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancerous) cells are found in the tissue of the rectum. The rectum makes up the last six inches of the large intestine. The first five feet of the large intestine is the colon.

Medical illustration of anatomy of the colon.

Rectal cancer is often grouped together with colon cancer and referred to as colorectal cancer. However, rectal cancer specifically starts in the rectum.

Rectal cancer often appears first as a small growth (polyp) on the rectum. Finding and removing these polyps early can prevent colorectal cancer, as some polyps can become cancer over time.

What are the types of rectal cancer?

Most rectal cancers are adenocarcinomas, which is a cancer that forms in the cells of the tissue lining the rectum. Other, rare forms of rectal cancer include:

What are the risk factors for rectal cancer?

There are some risk factors for rectal cancer that can be controlled and others that cannot. Some of the risk factors that can be controlled include:

  • Being overweight.
  • Having a sedentary lifestyle.
  • Using tobacco products, especially smoking.
  • Drinking too much alcohol.
  • Eating a diet high in red or processed meat.

Risk factors that cannot be controlled include:

  • Having a personal or family history of rectal polyps or colorectal cancer.
  • Having a genetic (inherited) syndrome such as Lynch syndrome or familial adenomatous polyposis.
  • Being over the age of 50.
  • Having a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Being African-American. African-American people have the highest incidence and mortality rates of colorectal cancer in the U.S. Researchers do not fully understand why this population is affected more than others.
  • Being Jewish and of Eastern European descent (Ashkenazi Jewish). This population also has one of the highest incidence rates of colorectal cancer.

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What can you do to prevent rectal cancer?

There is no guaranteed way to prevent cancer. However, you can reduce your risk for rectal cancer by:

  • Not using tobacco. Speak with your doctor if you need help quitting.
  • Exercising regularly.
  • Eating a healthy diet low in red and processed meat. Aim for plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fait dairy. Talk with your doctor or a nutritionist about what you should include in a healthy diet.
  • Keeping a healthy weight. Ask your doctor what a healthy weight is for you.
  • Asking your doctor about genetic testing and screening recommendations if you have an inherited disease that increases your risk for rectal cancer.

Have questions?

We're here to help answer any questions you or your family may have.

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