Colorectal Cancer Causes & Symptoms | Tampa General Hospital


Colorectal Cancer: General Information

Colorectal cancer is a cancer that affects either the colon or the rectum, which are parts of your large intestine and also the lower parts of the digestive system. This type of cancer often begins as a growth, called a polyp. Polyps can form on the wall of your colon or rectum. While polyps are fairly common, only certain kinds of polyps increase your risk of developing this type of cancer.


The early stage of colorectal cancer often does not have symptoms. Because of this, it’s important to get regular colorectal screenings, such as a colonoscopy or a fecal occult blood test. Screenings will allow your doctor to examine any polyps and catch problems early. More treatment options may be available to you as a result. Early detection is key!


There are several types of colorectal tumors, including:

  • Adenocarcinomas – The majority of colorectal cancers are adenocarcinomas and start in the mucus-making cells found in the lining of the colon and rectum.
  • Neuroendocrine or carcinoid tumors – These tumors are formed in the GI tract by hormone-producing cells.
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) – GISTs are typically formed in the stomach by interstitial cells of Cajal (ICCs), which are cells that stimulate GI tissues to contract and move food and liquid through the digestive system.
  • Lymphomas – Lymphomas form from immune system cells and can start in the colon or rectum.
  • Sarcomas – These tumors can form in the muscles, connective tissue, or blood vessels of the colon or rectum.

The colorectal team at Tampa General Hospital also checks patients for pelvic cancers and anal precancers. More specifically, we look for high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions that can be markers of anal cancer.


Most colorectal cancers are associated with the following symptoms:

  • Blood in the stool, which is the most noticeable sign of the disease
  • Changes in bowel habits, including more frequent constipation or persistent diarrhea
  • Abdominal bloating or discomfort
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Vomiting


Colorectal cancer is most common in people over age 50, and the risk of getting it increases with each passing decade. However, young people can also suffer from it and more and more people in their 30s and 40s are being diagnosed. If you are experiencing bleeding hemorrhoids at any age, get screened for cancer.

In addition to your age, you may be at a higher risk of developing the disease if you:

  • Have a family history of the cancer
  • Eat a diet high in fat and cholesterol
  • Have diabetes
  • Drink alcohol heavily
  • Smoke tobacco


The physicians at Tampa General Hospital’s Cancer Institute provide comprehensive evaluation and treatment for colorectal cancer, such as colectomy surgery. Our multidisciplinary team of surgeons, radiologists, nurses and other specialists provides world-class, comprehensive care. We’ll tailor a treatment plan specific to your needs, no matter the colorectal condition you’re dealing with.

We are also affiliated with the University of South Florida, making us an academic center with access to state-of-the-art technology and many exciting clinical trials. This puts us at the forefront of treatment advancements for our patients. In addition, Tampa General Hospital has earned “high performing” designation for cancer care by U.S. News & World Report for 2023-24, meaning we are ranked among the top 10% of U.S. hospitals.