What is bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer is cancer that starts in the colon (large bowel) or back passage (rectum). It is also known as colorectal cancer.


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

Risks and causes

The risks and causes of 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 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: 
27 Jul 2018
Coronavirus and cancer

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