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 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 they are made of the same tissues and do not have a clear border between them (Canadian Cancer Society).
In 2020 it is projected that 26 900 Canadians will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 9 700 will die of the disease. This makes colorectal cancer the third most diagnosed cancer in Canada with the second highest mortality rate (Canadian Cancer Society, 2020).
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.