Bowel cancer is when the cells that line the lower part of our digestive tract (colon and rectum) start to grow abnormally and in an uncontrolled way.
It usually starts from small growths called polyps, although these aren’t always cancerous and can be removed by a doctor before they become a problem.
Sometimes bowel cancer spreads through your lymph system or blood supply to other parts of your body, such as your liver or your abdomen. When this happens, it has metastasised and is harder to treat.
Bowel cancer is a common cancer and about a quarter of cases are picked up during screening, which is now being offered to many people aged 55 and over.
As with all cancers, the earlier it’s detected the better the chance of successful treatment.
The main bowel cancer symptoms are:
It’s important to see your GP if you have any of these symptoms, particularly if it’s for more than a few weeks, or your symptoms have returned.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. They may:
If they suspect bowel cancer they’ll refer you for one of these tests:
If these tests show bowel cancer, you’ll be referred for other tests to find out the stage of your cancer and whether it’s spread. These include:
Certain factors increase your risk of getting bowel cancer. These are:
Other preventable lifestyle causes are:
Treatment depends on the type of bowel cancer, and whether or not it’s spread. Often, you’ll have a combination of one or more of these treatments: