The causes of rectal cancer and the symptoms that result from it are similar to colon cancer.

The Rectum is the last six inches of the large intestine and is located just inside the anus. Because of its proximity to the anal sphincter muscle special surgical expertise is required in order to prevent serious complications that can result from surgery.

Cancers in the top 1/3 of the rectum can invariably be removed and intestinal continuity can be restored through an abdominal operation. Early stage cancers of the bottom 1/3 of the rectum can frequently be removed by an operation performed through the anus, avoiding major surgery. More advanced cancers of the lowest part of the rectum usually require removal and creation of a permanent colostomy . Modern surgical techniques also permit the removal of most mid-rectal cancers without the need for permanent colostomy.

Ultrasound examination of the cancer is frequently performed pre-operatively in order to determine its stage. Radiation and chemotherapy are sometimes used pre- and /or post-operatively in to improve the results of treatment.