About Colorectal Conditions

The colon and rectum are part of your large intestine. They serve to process and evacuate the body’s solid waste. Diseases of the colon and rectum comprise a broad range of conditions and ailments, with severity ranging from mildly irritating to life-threatening.

Colorectal cancer affects nearly 1.3 million people worldwide each year and is the fourth most common cause of cancer death. Colorectal cancer is more common among men, people over age 60, and in developed countries. Colorectal cancer usually starts in the glands of the colon or rectum lining. Almost all cases of colorectal cancer begin as non-cancerous (benign) polyps that slowly develop into cancer. Like many cancers, colorectal cancer can spread to lymph nodes or other organs.

Research proves that early screening and treatment of colon and rectal diseases can significantly improve treatment outcomes and survival rates. Unfortunately, many people delay or fail to seek treatment. They may be uninformed about colorectal cancer and its symptoms—or simply be embarrassed.

Common colorectal conditions include:

  • Anal fissure
  • Bowel incontinence
  • Colon cancer
  • Constipation
  • Diverticulitis
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease)
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Rectal cancer

Symptoms and Diagnosing

  • Blood in the stool
  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Narrow stools
  • Pelvic pain
  • Unexplained weight loss

The symptoms of colon and rectal disease can closely resemble those of other diseases. If you experience any of the symptoms of colorectal cancer, see your physician immediately.

Treatment and Surgical Options

If you have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer and your doctor suggests surgery, learning about all surgical options can help you make the best decision for your situation. Your options may include open surgery, performed through one large incision, or minimally invasive surgery, performed through a few small incisions.

Surgery to remove all or part of the colon is known as a colectomy. The extent of removal depends on the extent of the cancer. Surgery to remove all or part of the rectum is known as a rectal resection. Either type of surgery can be performed using open surgery or minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery.

For patients diagnosed with rectal cancer, surgeons typically perform a low anterior resection (LAR) to connect the rectum to the colon after removing the cancer. If the cancer is too close to the anus, your surgeon may need to remove your rectum, anus, and part of your sigmoid colon. This is known as an abdominoperineal resection (APR).

Benefits of Robotic Surgery

If you have a colorectal condition that requires surgery, your doctor may recommend robotic surgery, a minimally invasive procedure enhanced by the precision of robotics. The Virginia Institute of Robotic Surgery offers the latest advances in robotic-assisted surgery, offering many benefits for our patients.

Robotic-assisted da Vinci® surgery is a minimally invasive surgical option for treating colorectal cancer. The da Vinci Surgical System features a magnified 3D high-definition vision system and special wristed instruments that bend and rotate far greater than the human hand. These features enable our surgeons to operate with enhanced vision, precision, dexterity, and control. Your surgeon is in full control of the robotic instruments at all times—the instruments do not move on their own.

Benefits include:

  • Faster recovery
  • Fewer complications
  • Less pain
  • Less blood loss
  • Low conversion rate to open surgery
  • Minimal scarring
  • Precise removal of cancerous tissue
  • Quicker return of bowel function
  • Quicker return of urinary and sexual function
  • Quicker return to normal diet
  • Shorter hospital stay


Take an active role in your treatment. Access support and education resources through the American Cancer Society (ACS), National Cancer Institute, and American Society of Colorectal Surgeons (ASCRS), or ask your doctor or medical team for additional educational and support resources in your area.