Colorectal Cancer: A Guide for Patients

Guides for Patients are designed to assist patients, their relatives and caregivers to better understand the nature of different types of cancer and evaluate the best available treatment choices.

What is colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the large intestine. A term colon cancer refers to cancer that develops in the colon, the longest part of the large intestine. The term rectal cancer refers to cancer that develops in the rectum, the final straight part of the large intestine that ends in the anus – the opening of the rectum to the exterior. Cancer may also develop in the anus, but anal cancer is a distinct disease and not covered in this guide.

On 28 February 2019
EuropaColon/Digestive Cancers Europe launched
a Pan European Colorectal Cancer Screening Awareness Campaign
European Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month#ECCAM2019

Learn more at

Beyond a definition of colorectal cancer, in this guide for patients you will find answers to questions such as:

  • Is colorectal cancer frequent?
  • What causes colorectal cancer?
  • Screening for colorectal cancer
  • How is colorectal cancer diagnosed?
  • What is important to know to get the optimal treatment?
  • What are the treatment options?
  • What are the possible side effects of the treatment?
  • What happens after the treatment?

This guide for patients has been prepared in collaboration with Anticancer Fund as a service to patients, to help patients and their relatives better understand the nature of colorectal cancer and appreciate the best treatment choices available according to the subtype of colorectal cancer. ESMO recommends that patients ask their doctors about what tests or types of treatments are needed for their type and stage of disease.

The Patient Guide for Colorectal Cancer was published in 2013 and updated in 2016.