Colorectal lymphoma is a rare type of colorectal cancer. Older adults have a higher risk for this type of cancer. The most common type of colorectal lymphoma is non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Colorectal lymphoma is uncommon. It accounts for about 1.2% of the total cases of colorectal cancer. According to the SEER cancer tracking registries, an estimated 3.5 people per 1,000,000 were diagnosed with colorectal lymphoma in 2014.

Lymphomas are cancers that start in the lymphatic system. Colorectal lymphomas can develop in your colon or rectum. They occur more frequently in people assigned male at birth.

This article takes a closer look at the symptoms, causes, treatment, and outlook for people with colorectal lymphoma.

Colorectal lymphoma is a type of gastrointestinal tract cancer. It typically develops in your colon or rectum. For this reason, doctors often refer to colorectal lymphoma as “primary lymphoma of the colon.”

Colorectal lymphoma is more common in older adults and in people assigned male at birth.

The most common variety of primary lymphoma of the colon is non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It involves the stomach and small bowel more frequently than the large intestine.

Is colorectal lymphoma the same as colorectal cancer?

Colorectal lymphoma is a form of colorectal cancer. However, there are differences between the two. For instance, colorectal lymphomas and colorectal cancer have certain overlapping and certain distinct symptoms. Fevers and night sweats can occur in colorectal lymphoma, but they’re very uncommon in colorectal cancer.

Also, the chemotherapy drugs used for colorectal lymphomas are different than those for colorectal cancers, as each type of cancer is sensitive to different treatments.

In addition, subtypes of colorectal lymphomas can vary. For example, diffuse large B cell lymphomas are more aggressive than slower growing types of colorectal lymphomas, such as follicular lymphoma or colorectal cancers.

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If you have colorectal lymphoma, you may feel a palpable mass in your abdomen. Other symptoms of primary lymphoma of the colon may include:

If you have any of the above symptoms or other concerns about your health, contact a doctor. They can perform a physical exam and refer you to a specialist if they suspect you may have colorectal lymphoma.

Early diagnosis of colorectal lymphoma can mean a more positive outlook.

Colorectal lymphoma has a higher incidence in people between 50 to 70 years old. Researchers haven’t yet discovered the specific reason why people develop primary lymphoma in the colon. However, the risk factors for colorectal lymphoma may include:

Immunodeficiency and other systemic conditions, like the development of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, may also increase the risk of developing colorectal lymphoma.

Systemic lymphoma

In some cases, colorectal lymphoma can also be caused by cancerous B cells and T cells that have settled in your colon. These cells start growing and reproducing themselves without control.

Lymphoma can happen throughout the body, including in the colorectal region.

The most common examination for colorectal lymphoma is a contrast-enhanced CT scan of your abdomen. This type of imaging scan can provide the size, depth, and location of your tumor. However, it can’t completely distinguish between lymphoma and adenocarcinoma.

Doctors use a colonoscopy with a colorectal biopsy to confirm the diagnosis of colorectal lymphoma. During the exam, your doctor will insert a colonoscope in your rectum. They’ll then reach your colon, assess its condition, and collect a sample of tissue from the area where cancer has developed.

Does colorectal lymphoma show up on a routine colonoscopy?

Your doctor may spot colorectal lymphoma during a routine colonoscopy. However, a CT scan is often used to find any changes in your GI tract and understand the extent of the disease.

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Treatment for colorectal lymphoma can vary depending on the cancer stage. Doctors may recommend you undergo chemotherapy treatment or surgery if the cancer is in its early stages.

However, chemotherapy may not always be effective on lymphomas. In this case, your doctor may suggest the surgical removal of the colorectal lymphoma.

Surgery may also help repair damage in your bowels and improve symptoms in people with later-stage colorectal lymphoma.

In recent years, improved diagnosis and treatment methods have led to better outcomes for people with colorectal lymphoma. The reported average 5-year survival rate improved from 41.6% in 1976 to 80.2% in 2012.

However, the outlook for colorectal lymphoma can vary depending on the type, stage at diagnosis, and causes.

The following tables compare relative 5-year survival rates in the United States for different stages of colorectal cancer and two common forms of lymphoma.

Colorectal cancer survival rates

Cancer stage at diagnosis5-year relative survival rate
Localized (stages 1–2)90.8%
Regional (stage 3)72.2%
Distant (stage 4)15.5%

Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma survival rates

Cancer stage at diagnosis5-year relative survival rate
Localized (stages 1–2)74%
Regional (stage 3)73%
Distant (stage 4)57%

Follicular lymphoma survival rates

Cancer stage at diagnosis5-year relative survival rate
Localized (stages 1–2)97%
Regional (stage 3)91%
Distant (stage 4)86%

If you notice a new palpable lump or have been experiencing discomfort in your stomach, contact a doctor. Diagnosing colorectal lymphoma in its early stages can improve treatment outcome.

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Colorectal lymphoma is a rare type of lymphoma that occurs in about 1.2% of cases of colon cancer. Doctors also refer to colorectal lymphoma as primary lymphoma of the colon.

CT scans alongside a colonoscopy with biopsy are commonly used to diagnose this type of colorectal cancer.

People with colorectal lymphoma may experience weight loss, diarrhea, and abdominal discomfort. Surgery and chemotherapy are typically used to treat this type of cancer.

People assigned male at birth and people who are 50 or older have a higher risk of developing colorectal lymphoma. The 5-year survival rate may vary depending on the cause, stage, and type of cancer. However, the average relative 5-year survival rate is about 80%.