Colorectal cancer

What is colorectal cancer?

Colorectal or bowel cancer is the second biggest cause of cancer deaths in the UK, with up to 35,000 new cases diagnosed in the UK every year (

Who does colorectal cancer affect?

People most at risk of contracting this type of cancer are those aged over 45, with around 80% of cases arising in people aged 60 plus (NHS Choices, As with many cancers, people with a family history are also more susceptible than those without. Certain pre-existing colorectal conditions, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis can also play a role in the development of colorectal cancer. Lifestyle aspects appear to increase the chance of developing bowel cancer include a poor, high-fat, low-fibre diet. Living a healthy lifestyle by enjoying regular exercise and avoiding smoking and excessive drinking may help lower your risk of developing colorectal cancer.

What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer can affect the colon, intestine and rectum, as well as the appendix and parts of the stomach. Symptoms vary depending on the location of the cancer, but can include:

  • rectal bleeding
  • mucous and/or blood in stools
  • constipation and/or diarrhoea for an extended period of time
  • acute abdominal pain or discomfort

These symptoms do not necessarily mean cancer is the cause so if you experience anything that looks or feels different, make an appointment to get checked out with your GP. Should you require referral for further investigation with a specialist, your GP can arrange for you to be seen privately by one of our consultants at Spire Murrayfield Hospital in Edinburgh.

Our oncology service

When you attend Spire Murrayfield Hospital your consultant will discuss your symptoms with you and may wish to perform further investigative tests, which can include a physical examination, CT scan, MRI, X-ray, endoscopy and sigmoidoscopy - a special bowel examination which also allows your consultant to take a small biopsy. Your consultant may also choose to take blood samples and have these analysed by our pathology laboratory. Our on-site diagnostic and pathology facilities mean that further investigation or referral can be actioned quickly.

If a diagnosis of cancer is given, all decisions and treatment pathways at Spire Murrayfield Hospital are discussed and established by our multidisciplinary team of experts, which includes consultant colorectal surgeons, oncologists, radiologists, nurses, pathologists, mammographers and counsellors. The whole team are part of the South East Scotland Cancer Network (SCAN) and all patients that have a colorectal cancer diagnosis will have their case and treatment pathway discussed and planned at a multi-disciplinary team meeting. Click here to find out more about our multidisciplinary team.  

What bowel cancer treatments are available privately in Edinburgh?

Surgery is a common approach to treating bowel cancer; however, your specialist consultant may decide that a drugs-led approach would best suit your individual clinical needs. This could include a period of intravenous chemotherapy to shrink the tumour, followed by surgery at the appropriate time.

Although we do not offer radiotherapy on-site, if this is identified as the best treatment for you, or as a possible adjunct to another treatment, your Spire consultant will arrange for your radiotherapy treatment to be carried out at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh.

Click here to find out more about treatment options.