Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancers start in the cells that line the inside of the colon or the rectum. The colon and rectum make up the large intestine (bowel). Colorectal cancer is commonly referred to as bowel cancer, as bowel is another name for the large intestine. Colorectal cancer usually grows slowly and in a predictable way, and is curable when diagnosed at an early stage. Colon and rectal cancers are grouped together, because these organs are made of the same tissues and do not have a clear border between them.1

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in Canada and has the second highest mortality rate. One in 18 Canadians are expected to develop colorectal cancer in their lifetime. In 2021 it is projected that 24 800 Canadians will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer – amounting to about 11 per cent of new cancer cases – and that 9 600 will die of the disease.2

Screening for colorectal cancer can identify and remove precancerous polyps, which can in turn reduce incidence of the cancer. As of 2015, all provinces had announced or started implementing organized screening programs, although screening rates remain low. Colorectal cancer is linked to several modifiable risk factors including obesity, physical inactivity, consumption of red and processed meat, and smoking.

More Information

WEBINAR: Watch CCSN’s 2018 Webinar on Anal & Colorectal Cancers, hosted by Helene Hutchings:


  1. Canadian Cancer Society, “What is colorectal cancer?
  2. Canadian Cancer Statistics 2021