Bowel Cancer

Bowel cancer is cancer in any part of the large bowel (colon or rectum). It is sometimes also known as colorectal cancer.

In its early stages bowel cancer often has no symptoms. However, some people may experience:

  • A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhoea, constipation, or smaller, more frequent bowel movements
  • A feeling of fullness or bloating in the bowel or rectum
  • A feeling that the bowel hasn't emptied completely after a bowel movement
  • Blood in the stools or on the toilet paper

Screening for this disease is important and encouraged to begin regularly from age 50. However if either of the following risk factors is experienced consultation with your doctor about earlier or more frequent screening is encouraged.

Additional risk factors include:

  • Personal or family history of bowel cancer
  • History of polyps in the colon, as result of ulcerative colitis or Crohn's Disease


Surgery is the primary treatment for bowel cancer. However, depending on the location, size and stage of your cancer combined treatment with chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy either before or after surgery may be recommended.


Patients considered for radiotherapy may receive this either:

  • Before surgery (called preoperative or neoadjuvant therapy) to help shrink the cancer, making it smaller and easier to remove at the time of surgery, or
  • After surgery (called postoperative or adjuvant therapy) to treat any potential microscopic disease that may remain

Radiotherapy is usually delivered on a daily basis for 5-15 minutes, over a 4-6 week course of treatment. The delivery of this treatment is routinely by Conformal External Beam Radiotherapy or IMRT (Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy).


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