About bowel cancer

What is bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer is also called colorectal cancer. It affects the large bowel, which is made up of the colon and rectum. Sometimes bowel cancer spreads to other parts of the body like the liver or lungs.  Most bowel cancers develop from non-cancerous growths, called polyps. Polyps are very common as we get older and most polyps do not develop into cancer. If your doctor finds any polyps, he or she can remove them to prevent them becoming cancerous.

What are the symptoms?

Bleeding from the bottom without obvious reason, or blood in your poo
A persistent change in bowel habit to looser or more frequent bowel motions
A lump in your tummy or tummy pain, especially if it's severe

How is bowel cancer treated?

The main treatment for bowel cancer is surgery. In some cases chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy may also be recommended, but all cancers are different and all people are different so treatment is tailored to individuals

Risk factors

There is no known cause for bowel cancer. However, your age, diet, lifestyle and family history can all affect your chances of developing bowel cancer.

You are more at risk if you:

  • have a history of non-cancerous growths (polyps) in your bowel or
  • have a strong family history of bowel cancer or
  • have type 2 diabetes or
  • have long standing inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease orhave an unhealthy lifestyle

Reducing your risk

There are a number of ways you can reduce your risk of developing bowel cancer:

  • Eating plenty of fibre from wholegrain foods, pulses, vegetable and fruit
  • Avoid processed meat and limit red meat
  • Be more physically active in everyday life and maintain a healthy body weight
  • Don’t smoke
  • Limit your alcohol intake
  • Know your body and how it usually functions so that you recognise changes in your bowel habits.
  • Take part in the NHS bowel screening programme. Bowel cancer screening can save lives. Everybody between the age of 60-74 (50-74 in Scotland) will be sent a bowel cancer screening test kit if they are registered with a GP. Don’t ignore it!

There is no known cause for bowel cancer. However, your age, diet, lifestyle and family history can all affect your chances of developing bowel cancer

For more information:

Mr Brightside Project: This charity was set up to help raise awareness of bowel cancer in all ages, male & female.
The Adam Stansfield Foundation: Seeks to promote community participation in healthy recreation for the benefit of children and young people.
The Bobby Moore Fund: Part of Cancer Research UK, which is the leading researcher into bowel cancer.