Colon & Rectal Cancer Stories

Read in-depth colon cancer and rectal cancer stories, or colorectal cancers, from our community members who share everything from how they knew something was wrong, including genetic mutations, to navigating life with colorectal cancer and treatment.

Colorectal cancer can start either in the colon or the rectum. It makes up about eight-percent of all cancer cases in the U.S. Finding and removing polyps can prevent colorectal cancer. (NCI) It’s also on the rise for men and women under 50 years old.

Colorectal Cancer Symptoms

Colorectal cancer, colon cancer and rectal cancer, symptoms vary and can show up differently for each person. Sometimes, especially for earlier stage (1, 2) cancer, there are no symptoms at all.

Read how our colon cancer patients describe symptoms, along with guidelines from the National Cancer Institute.

This is to give real patient examples and is not a substitute for medical advice.

»MORE: Patients share their colon, rectal, and colorectal cancer symptoms

Colorectal Cancer Patient Stories

Hear from our The Patient Story colon, rectal, and colorectal cancer community members on how they got diagnosed, what treatments they underwent, and how they managed quality of life day to day post-diagnosis. Choose from the specific subtype below.

Colon Cancer Stories

Shannon M., Colon Cancer, Stage 1

Cancer Details:
Found the cancer as a result of her Lynch Syndrome
1st Symptoms: Routine colonoscopy found polyp
Treatment: Partial colectomy

Hugo T., Colon Cancer, Stage 1

Cancer Details: Diagnosed 2 weeks after 5 years remission from testicular cancer
1st Symptoms: Inflamed bowel
Treatment: Subtotal colectomy, immunotherapy

Rachel B., Sigmoid Colon Cancer, Stage 1

Cancer Details: The sigmoid colon (or pelvic colon) is the part of the large intestine that is closest to the rectum
1st Symptoms: Stomach discomfort, nausea, bloating, blood in stool
Treatment: Colectomy

Chris T., Colon Cancer, Stage 2

Cancer Details: Discovered Lynch Syndrome after genetic testing
1st Symptoms: Found the cancer as a result of family history, early colonoscopy
Treatment: Partial colectomy

Shannon C., Colon Cancer, Stage 2A

Cancer Details: Diagnosed at 29, tested positive for Lynch Syndrome
1st Symptoms: Severe pains after eating
Treatment: Partial colectomy
Barbara smiling

Barbara M., Colon Cancer, Stage 3

Cancer Details: Family history wasn’t flagged, should have had colonoscopy earlier
1st Symptoms: Stomach discomfort, difficult to process food
Treatment: Colectomy, Chemo (FOLFOX, CAPOX)

Shelley B., Colon Cancer, Stage 3B

Cancer Details: Had no usual first symptoms, found as a result of routine colonoscopy and endoscopy
1st Symptoms: None
Treatment:Partial colectomy, chemotherapy (FOLFOX)

Lindsay D., Colon Cancer, Stage 4

Cancer Details: Diagnosed at 32, cancer spread to ovary and lung
1st Symptoms: Lump in pelvic area, funny-smelling food, weight loss
Treatment: Chemotherapy, colectomy (surgery)

Lee J., Colon Cancer, Stage 4, Recurrence

Cancer Details: Recurrence then remission
1st Symptoms: Discovered stage 4 cancer from unrelated CT scan
Treatment: Neoadjuvant chemo (FOLFOX), hemicolectomy (partial colon surgery), adjuvant chemo (FOLFOX), chemo post-recurrence (FOLFIRI), liver surgery
Rectal Cancer Stories

Joanna H., Rectal Cancer, Stage 3

Cancer Details: Rectal adenocarcinoma

1st symptoms: Rectal bleeding, bloating, stomach aches

Treatment: FOLFOX chemo, radiation

Catherine P., Rectal Cancer, Stage 3

Cancer Details: Rectal adenocarcinoma; 98% of rectal and colon cancers are adenocarcinomas
1st Symptoms: Rectal bleeding, constipation, bloating
Treatment: Fertility treatments, chemo, radiation, tumor resection surgery

Jelena T., Rectal Cancer, Stage 3A

Cancer Details: 7cm mass found
1st Symptoms: Gas changes, rectal bleeding
Treatment: Chemo, radiation, surgery for tumor removal, ileostomy reversal

Jackie S., Rectal Adenocarcinoma, Stage 3B, Lynch Syndrome

Cancer Details: Rectal adenocarcinoma; 98% of rectal and colon cancers are adenocarcinomas
1st Symptoms: Blood in stool, constipation
Treatment: Chemo, radiation, surgery, immunotherapy

Maria A., Rectal Cancer, Stage 3C

Cancer Details: 7cm mass found
1st Symptoms: Fatigue, weight loss, fast heart rate, bladder infection
Treatment: Chemo, radiation, surgery for tumor removal

Justine L., Rectal Cancer, Stage 3B/ 4

Cancer Details: Metastasized to stage 4
1st symptoms: Increasing bowel movements (up to 20/day), some rectal bleeding
Treatment: Chemoradiation (oral pill capecitabine + radiation), colectomy, FOLFOX chemo, SBRT radiation, cancer ablation, Y90 (radioembolization)
Colorectal Cancer Stories

Cancer in both the colon and rectum


Allison R., Colorectal Cancer, Stage 2C

Age at Diagnosis: 32
1st Symptoms: Extreme fatigue, unexplained weight loss, blood in stool, "blockage" feeling after eating
Treatment: Concurrent adjuvant (oral) chemotherapy + radiation, colectomy, oral chemotherapy

Colorectal Cancer Medical Experts

Kimmie Ng, MD, MPH

Dr. Ng shares the latest on her work and research focused on treatments for colorectal cancer patients. She is the Founding Director of the Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer Center and specializes in many areas, including the identification of dietary, molecular, and genetic predictors of improved survival in patients with colorectal cancer, with particular interest in the vitamin D and inflammatory pathways.

»MORE: Hear from Dr. Kimmie Ng

Navigating Life with Cancer

A cancer diagnosis leads to many more questions than ones about medical treatment. How do I break thew news to friends and family? Will I lose my hair? Do I need to advocate for myself right now?

Read pieces and hear from our patients on some of the most popular cancer topics. For a full list of cancer FAQ topics, click here.

Processing a Cancer Diagnosis

Hear from cancer patients how they were able to eventually process their cancer diagnosis.

Breaking the News of Diagnosis to Loved Ones

Once cancer patients learn of their own diagnosis, one of the top questions next is how to tell family and friends. Get some guidance from those who’ve already been there.

How to Be a Self-Advocate

Cancer patients share how they advocated for themselves throughout the diagnosis and treatment experience.

Hair Loss & Cancer Treatment

One of the most popular questions, especially with chemotherapy as part of cancer treatment, is, “Will I lose my hair?” Hear how some people managed through hair loss.