Home Health A-Z Rectal Cancer – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Rectal Cancer – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Verified By Apollo Doctors October 29, 2021 2120 0
Rectal Cancer
Rectal Cancer


Rectal cancer is a type of cancer in which malignant (cancerous) cells develop in the rectal tissues. The large intestine, also known as the large bowel, comprises the rectum and the colon. The rectum is the big bowel’s final six inches, connecting the colon to the anus. It develops when cells in the rectum change and proliferate uncontrollably. The illness can also occur when polyps on the inner wall of the rectum expand and become cancerous. Cancer inside the rectum and cancer inside the colon are often referred to together as “colorectal cancer.


What is rectal cancer?

The rectum remains empty except when stool passes through it during bowel movement. The actual cause of rectal cancer is unknown. But studies suggest that that tumor develops when the normal existing cells of the rectum lining undergo rapid uncontrolled growth and develop into cancer. Some polyps and tumors may bleed, thus may be detected in stool fecal occult blood testing (FOBT) test. 

Gene mutations passed from parents to children are involved in a small percentage of rectal cancers. 

Two well-defined genetic colorectal cancer syndromes are:

  1. Lynch syndrome, also called hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC)
  2. Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP): Adenocarcinoma is the most common kind of rectal cancer, accounting for around 95% of all cases. These tumors generally begin as polyps or growths in the rectum lining. During a colonoscopy, polyps may be removed. Other forms of rectal cancer include as follows:
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumors
  • Carcinoid tumors
  • Lymphomas

What are the symptoms of Rectal Cancer?

In the early stages, there may be no apparent symptoms. Symptoms of the illness include changes in bowel habits, rectal bleeding, and thin, ribbon-like feces. Other symptoms are as follows:

When to see a doctor?

You should contact your doctor if blood appears in the stool or toilet after or during a bowel movement or if you notice a change in the bowel pattern, such as increased diarrhea or constipation and a change in the size or shape of the stool. In case you experience any of the mentioned symptoms,


Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment

How can rectal cancer be prevented?

Rectal cancer may be prevented by addressing the possible risk factors. Rectal polyps, which are benign growths on the rectal wall, cause nearly all rectal cancers. Some strategies for preventing rectal cancer are as follows:

  • Screening for rectal cancer: digital rectal exam (DRE) is the specific test used to screen rectal cancers. It will help detect any abnormal growth in the area and raise the alarm for further detailed investigation. 
  • Eat plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables: Diets high in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains is linked to a lower risk of colon or rectal cancer.
  • Get regular exercise: You are more likely to get colorectal cancer, if you are not physically active.
  • Get in charge of your weight: Obesity and being overweight raise your chances of developing and dying from colon or rectal cancer.
  • Do not smoke: Long-term smokers are more prone to develop and die from colon or rectal cancer than nonsmokers.

Treatment for rectal cancer

Different types of rectal cancer-related treatments are available for patients at Apollo Hospitals


Very small rectal cancers may be removed from the rectum, using a colonoscope 

  • Removing part or all of the rectum: Larger rectal cancers away from the anal canal might be removed in a procedure that removes all or part of the rectum.  The procedure preserves the anus so that waste can leave normally from the body.
  • Removing the anus and rectum: For rectal cancers located near anus, the anus, rectum and some of the colon, in addition to nearby tissue and lymph nodes are removed and an openings made in the abdomen through which the wastes leave and collect in a bag that attaches to your abdomen.

Also Read About: Solitary Rectal Ulcer Syndrome


  • For rectal cancer, chemotherapy may be prescribed after surgery to kill any cancer cells that may remain.
  • Chemotherapy together with radiation therapy may also be used before a surgery to shrink a large cancer so that it’s easier to remove with surgery.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy makes use of powerful energy sources like X-rays and protons either before surgery to shrink a cancer or after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells or as a palliative measure.

Targeted drug therapy

Targeted drug treatments will focuses on specific abnormalities present within cancer cells. 


Immunotherapy is a drug therapy that makes use of your immune system to fight cancer. 

Supportive (palliative) care

Palliative care is focused on offering relief from pain and other symptoms of a severe illness. 


Rectal cancer is a cancer whose survival rates have improved due to early diagnosis and surgical techniques as well as modern chemotherapy and radiation therapy. 

Early diagnosis remains the key to better outcomes.  

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Does rectal bleeding imply rectal cancer?

Rectal bleeding is one of the symptoms of rectal cancer but is not always due to it . There are several reasons for rectal bleeding:  ulcers, constipation, colon polyps, hemorrhoids, anal fissure, etc. Thus, in case of rectal bleeding, you should consult a doctor to identify the cause. 

Where does rectal cancer spread first?

Rectal cancer most often spreads to liver. It happens as the blood supply from the large intestine, which includes the rectum, is connected to the liver through a large blood vessel.

What is the leading cause of rectal cancer?

Rectal cancer has no known cause, although the chance of acquiring the disease grows with age. People with specific genetic cancer syndromes are more likely to get the disease. 

Verified By Apollo Doctors
At Apollo, we believe that easily accessible, reliable health information can make managing health conditions an empowering experience. AskApollo Online Health Library team consists of medical experts who create curated peer-reviewed medical content that is regularly updated and is easy-to-understand.

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