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.

Symptoms of bowel cancer

Symptoms of bowel (colorectal) cancer can include bleeding from the back passage, blood in your poo or a change in your normal bowel habit.

Risks and causes of bowel cancer

The risk factors for bowel (colorectal) cancer include your age, family history, lifestyle factors and other medical conditions.

Getting diagnosed

You usually start by seeing your GP and they might refer you to a specialist and organise tests. Find out more, and read about screening for bowel cancer.


Stages, types and grades

The stage of a cancer tells you how big it is and whether it has spread. It helps your doctor to know which treatment you need.


Treatment depends on whether you have colon or rectal cancer, as well as your cancer stage. You might have surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy or a combination of these. 


Survival depends on the stage of your bowel (colorectal) cancer when you are diagnosed. This means how big it is and whether it has spread. 

Research and clinical trials

All treatments must be fully researched before they can be adopted as standard treatment for everyone. Find out about research into bowel (colorectal) cancer. 

Living with bowel cancer

Getting practical and emotional support can help you cope with diagnosis, and life during and after treatment.

Advanced bowel cancer

Advanced bowel (colorectal) cancer means cancer that has spread outside your bowel to other parts of your body. Treatment includes chemotherapy, surgery, targeted cancer drugs (biological therapies) and radiotherapy. 

Last reviewed: 
01 Feb 2022
Next review due: 
01 Feb 2025
Coronavirus and cancer

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