Not counting skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer found in men and women in this country. Thanks to colorectal cancer screening, polyps can be found earlier when it is easier to cure, and the death rate from this cancer has been going down for the past 15 years. Still, the risk of a man having colorectal cancer in his lifetime is about 1 in 19; for women it is about 1 in 20. As we do with every illness we'll help explain in simple terms what Colon cancer is, who is at risk and what the dangers are, and what are the symptoms. So join us as we simplify what you need to know about Colon cancer here on MD VOD, your health live and on demand. Colon and rectal cancers begin in the digestive system, or GI system, short for gastrointestinal system. This is where food is processed to create energy and rid the body of solid waste matter. In order to understand colorectal cancer, it helps to know something about the structure of the digestive system and how it works. After food is chewed and swallowed, it travels to the stomach. There it is partly broken down and sent to the small intestine. The word "small" refers to the width of the small intestine. In fact, the small intestine is the longest part of the digestive system — about 20 feet long. The small intestine also breaks down the food and absorbs most of the nutrients and then leads to the large intestine (also called the large bowel or colon), a muscular tube about five feet long. The colon absorbs water and nutrients from the food and also serves as a storage place for waste matter. The waste matter (stool) moves from the colon into the rectum, the last six inches of the digestive system. From there the waste passes out of the body through the opening called the anus.
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