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What is bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is a type of cancer that begins in the cells of the large intestine or the rectum.

What is cancer?

Your body and the cells that make it up are constantly growing and being replaced. Normally when cells get to a certain age or if anything goes wrong with them along the way, they die and are reabsorbed into the body.

But sometimes the mechanism that makes them die doesn't work properly, and instead they grow in an uncontrolled manner. This is what we call cancer.

What makes cancer cells different

There are a few things that make cancer cells different from normal cells, and understanding those things helps you understand how cancer is treated.

  1. They don't die when they're meant to. Like we already touched on, cancer cells are able to live much longer than they should normally be able to.
  2. They're very good at stealing resources. Unlike your bodies normal cells, cancer cells are constantly trying to gain access to the nutrients contained in your blood. So much so that they can actually promote the growth of new blood vessels to feed themselves.
  3. Cancer cells invade other parts of your body. For the most part, the different cells of your body keep to themselves. Stomach cells stay in the stomach, liver cells stick to the liver. Cancer cells are different, the often purposely invade parts of the body they're not meant to, spreading themselves around.
  4. They can hide from your immune system. This is a big reason why they can spread to other parts of your body. Your immune system thinks they are supposed to be there, so it mostly ignores them.

Location of Bowel Cancer: The Colon and Rectum

The large intestine, commonly referred to as the colon, is the final part of the digestive system. Bowel cancer can start anywhere in the large intestine. The rectum, which is the last several inches of the colon, is another common site for this cancer. Depending on where the cancer starts, it might be referred to more specifically as colon cancer (when it begins in the colon) or rectal cancer (when it begins in the rectum).

Colorectal Cancer: An Alternative Name

The term "colorectal cancer" is often used interchangeably with bowel cancer. It encompasses cancers that start in both the colon and the rectum. The term reflects the shared features and similarities in the treatment of cancers in these two regions.

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