Rectal Cancer

Rectal cancer is a disease that occurs in the last six inches of the digestive tract, in the rectum and anus. Polyps, or abnormal tissue growths, are responsible for rectal cancer. Usually benign or noncancerous, the small clumps of abnormal cells that form polyps can become cancerous over time. These same types of polyps or tumors also may occur in the colon. Because the colon and rectum make up the large intestine, together they are classified as colorectal cancers. Approximately 95 percent of colorectal cancers originate in a type of gland cells that line the rectum or colon, but other types of rare tumors also can cause rectal or colon cancers.

A family history of colorectal cancer, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, and hereditary polyps may increase the likelihood of developing rectal cancer. It is common in both men and women, but the risk factors increase after age 40. For women, prior cancer in the ovaries, breasts, or uterus lining also can contribute to an increased risk of developing rectal cancer.  A diet of fatty foods and smoking may further increase that risk. Especially for those at high risk for developing colorectal cancers, regular screenings and the removal of benign polyps can prevent cancer from developing.


Patients who choose UAB Medicine to treat their rectal cancer will be seen by the UAB Multidisciplinary Colorectal Cancer Clinic, a “one-stop shop” where patients visit with multiple specialists on the same day and leave that initial appointment with a customized treatment plan. Opened in 2018, the clinic features a range of medical professionals in a single location, including medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and surgical oncologists. This collaborative approach helps ensure seamless coordination among cancer specialists and enables treatment to begin sooner. Appointments are available within one week.

The clinic is part of the O'Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB, where cutting-edge cancer research is being conducted, so patients may be eligible for medications and treatments through clinical trials that aren’t available at most other medical centers. We understand that a rectal cancer diagnosis can be stressful for patients, so we provide a nurse navigator to help organize your visit. Our highly trained nurse navigators streamline your care at UAB Medicine by arranging for your medical records, setting your appointments, and guiding you throughout the process, which helps give you peace of mind and allows your treatment team to deliver more efficient care.





UAB is an active participant in research and clinical trials for rectal cancer. We encourage you to speak to your physician about research and clinical trial options and browse the link below for more information.

View Clinical Trials