Bowel cancer

Bowel cancer is cancer that happens in the large bowel, which is part of the digestive system. It’s made of up structures called the colon (which helps to absorb water into the body) and the rectum (which stores poo, or stool, until it’s ready to be passed out of the body). Bowel cancer is sometimes called colorectal cancer if it starts in the colon, or rectal cancer, if it starts in the rectum.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptoms of bowel cancer are blood in your poo or an unexplained change in your bowel habits. You may also notice that your tummy feels painful, bloated or uncomfortable on a regular basis.

How is it diagnosed?

Bowel cancer is normally diagnosed after a number of tests in hospital. You or your child’s large bowel will normally be examined further by a test called an endoscopy, which uses a small thin tube with a camera to look inside the body, or by other specialised CT scans.

You may have further tests if your specialist thinks that your cancer, in the form of a tumour, or lump, may have spread.

The specialist will be able to work out the stage of cancer from these tests. The stage is the size of the tumour and whether it has spread to other parts of your body.

How is it treated?

Bowel cancer is normally treated with surgery but may also include chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Your exact treatment will depend on which part of the bowel is affected and how far the tumour has spread, so it’s best to talk to your specialist for further information.

In some cases, you may also be treated with biological treatments, which are drugs that kill cancer cells by interfering with how they grow.

What happens after treatment?

You will still need to attend an outpatient clinic regularly so your specialist can check your progress and make sure your cancer hasn’t come back.

If you have any concerns or are worried about any long-term changes following your treatment, talk to your specialist about any long-term side effects.

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