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Basics of colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer is a cancer that starts in the colon or rectum. According to the American Cancer Society®, it is the third most common cancer (excluding skin cancers) in the United States, and it is estimated that there will be nearly 150,000 new cases diagnosed in 2021.1

Colorectal cancer often starts with polyps, small growths that appear on the innermost lining of the colon or rectum. Some polyps are harmless, but others can turn into cancer (pre-cancerous). If the polyp progresses and becomes cancer, it can grow into the deeper layers of the colon and may spread into the blood or lymph vessels. If it reaches the vessels, it can travel to nearby lymph nodes or other parts of the body.

The extent (or stage) of the cancer depends on how deeply it has grown into the wall of the colon or rectum and whether it’s traveled to other parts of the body. The stage of the cancer is a key factor your doctor will use to determine a treatment plan.

Treatment for colorectal cancer may include:

  • Surgery to remove the cancer
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Ablation and embolization, which block the blood vessels that feed the tumor and cause it to shrink
  • Immunotherapy, which helps the immune system recognize and destroy cancer cells

In addition to the stage, your doctor will also consider the type of cancer you have and your overall state of health in determining what type or treatment, or combination of treatments, is best for you.

Because most treatments for cancer have side effects, it’s important to take care of yourself both before and during treatment. Things you can do to make treatment easier include:

  • Getting enough rest
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Staying physically active
  • Staying connected with family and friends

If you have questions about your treatment plan, or if you have concerns about side effects, contact your doctor or the CVS Specialty CareTeam.

This information is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Talk to your doctor or health care provider about your medical condition and prior to starting any new treatment. CVS Specialty assumes no liability whatsoever for the information provided or for any diagnosis or treatment made as a result, nor is it responsible for the reliability of the content.

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1. American Cancer Society® Website. Accessed October 4, 2021.

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