Bowel cancer is cancer is the 4th most common cancer in the UK and currently the second most common cause of cancer death in the United Kingdom. Over 32,000 patients diagnosed with bowel cancer between 01 April 2019 and 31 March 2020.

Your risk increases as you age.  Some people are at even higher risk depending on their personal or family history….

The 3 main symptoms of bowel cancer are:

  • persistent blood in poo without obvious reason or is associated with a change in bowel habit
  • a persistent change in your bowel habit mainly to increased frequency or your poo may become more runny
  • persistent lower tummy pain, bloating or discomfort that’s always caused by eating and may be associated with loss of appetite and/or significant weight loss.

Cause for bowel Cancer

The exact cause is not known but one has increased risk of developing Colon cancer with:


  • Age– 9 in 10 people with bowel cancer are over 60 years of age.
  • Diet – Diet with high intake of Red and/or Processed meats and low fibre can increase your risk.
  • Exercise– Lack of exercise can increase risk of Cancers.
  • Obesity– Obesity is known to increase risk of Bowel cancer.
  • Smoking/Alcohol– Smoking and excessive drinking may increase your risk of Bowel Cancer.
  • Family History– Bowel cancer in close Family members (Parents, Brothers or sisters) under the age of 50 will increase your lifetime risk of developing Bowel cancer.
  • Others – Patients with extensive Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s Disease for over 10 years can increase risk of bowel cancer.

Colorectal cancer diagnosis

There are a series of tests and investigations which can be done to confirm or rule out a diagnosis of colorectal cancer, and to find out whether the cancer has spread to other parts of your body.

There are several ways which the doctor can examine your bowel. Whatever examination is used your bowel will need to be prepared. It must be as empty as possible so that the doctor can get a clear view inside.

The preparation may vary but will usually include:

  • eating a low fibre (roughage) diet for a day or so before the test to clear your bowel of any residue
  • drinking clear fluids only the day before the examination
  • taking laxatives to clear your upper bowel
  • an enema to make sure the lower part of the bowel is empty.
  • If you have any questions or the explanation is unclear, please ask your doctor or nurse.

Sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy

During these investigations the doctor passes a scope (a tube with a small camera on the end) into your bowel. A sigmoidoscopy looks at the lower part of your large bowel, while the colonoscopy looks further up the colon.

The doctor can see if there is part of the lining of the bowel which looks different, for example there may be a polyp (a small smooth growth) or an ulcer.

If the doctor does see something unusual, a biopsy (a sample of tissue) will be taken from this area. The tissue will be sent to the laboratory for examination under the microscope.

Colorectal cancer treatment

Treatment will usually be an operation to remove the cancer and/or to relieve your symptoms. You may also have chemotherapy or radiotherapy as well as an operation.

There are several ways of treating colorectal cancer and your treatment will be planned individually for you. Don’t be concerned if you talk to other people who are receiving similar, but different, treatments.


An operation may be performed to remove the cancer and part of the bowel on either side of this. Depending on the extent of the operation the two ends of the bowel may be stitched together.

If the tumour is sited low in your rectum, there may not be enough bowel left to join together. In this case you may have to have a colostomy formed. A colostomy, or stoma, is an artificial opening created when the healthy part of your bowel is brought out onto the surface of your abdomen. Your stool will be passed through this opening instead of through your rectum as before. You will need to wear an appliance (bag) to collect your stools. This type of colostomy will be permanent.

In some situations, you may need to have a temporary colostomy formed to rest your bowel while healing takes place. This is usually only for a few weeks and will be discussed with you by your doctor.

If it is possible to say before your operation that you will need to have a colostomy, a stoma care nurse will visit you. They will explain exactly what will happen and what to expect. The stoma care nurse will show you how to care for your colostomy and help you adapt to living with a stoma. They can provide support over a long period of time.

If you have any questions or there is anything you don’t understand, please speak to your doctor or nurse.


Chemotherapy (drug treatment) may be recommended for you. Chemotherapy means treatment with anti-cancer drugs, which are given to destroy or control cancer cells by damaging them so that they can’t divide and grow.


Radiotherapy uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells and is given using a machine similar to an X-ray machine but slightly larger. The treatment area will include the tumour and the surrounding lymph nodes (glands) if necessary. The treatment will be planned specifically for you to make sure that the cancer cells are destroyed with the least amount of damage to normal tissues.

Side effects

Your bowel habits may change during radiotherapy, for example you stool may become loose or you may develop diarrhoea. If this happens, please tell your doctor, radiographer or nurse. You will be given advice on diet and medicine can be prescribed to help you. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids.

Your bladder may be included in the treatment field and, if so, you may experience some discomfort when passing urine. You may also want to pass urine more frequently. Once again, make sure you drink plenty of fluids and tell your doctor about this problem.


If you have any concerning symptoms, you should visit your Local GP or Contact Professionals at