Survival

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

Survival depends on many factors. No one can tell you exactly how long you will live.

These are general statistics based on large groups of people. Remember, they can’t tell you what will happen in your individual case. 

Your doctor can give you more information about your own outlook (prognosis). You can also talk about this with the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Survival by stage

There are no UK-wide statistics available for bowel cancer survival by stage.

Survival statistics are available for each stage of bowel cancer in England. These figures are for men and women diagnosed between 2013 and 2017.

Stage 1

Around 90 out of 100 people (around 90%) with stage 1 bowel cancer (also called Dukes' A) will survive their cancer for 5 years or more after they're diagnosed. 

Stage 2

More than 80 out of 100 people (more than 80%) with stage 2 bowel cancer (also called Dukes' B) will survive their cancer for 5 years or more after they're diagnosed. 

Stage 3

Almost 70 out of 100 people (almost 70%) with stage 3 bowel cancer (also called Dukes' C) will survive their cancer for 5 years or more after they're diagnosed. 

Stage 4

10 out of 100 people (10%) with stage 4 bowel cancer (also called Dukes' D) will survive their cancer for 5 years or more after they're diagnosed. 

If the cancer has spread into the liver and the surgeon can remove it, more than 40 out of 100 people (more than 40%) will survive their cancer for 5 years or more after their operation. 

Cancer survival by stage at diagnosis for England, 2019
Office for National Statistics

 These figures are for people diagnosed in England between 2013 and 2017. 

These statistics are for net survival. Net survival estimates the number of people who survive their cancer rather than calculating the number of people diagnosed with cancer who are still alive. In other words, it is the survival of cancer patients after taking into account that some people would have died from other causes if they had not had cancer.

Surgical management and outcomes of colorectal cancer liver metastases
E J A Morris and others
British Journal of Surgery Year - 2010 Volume Number - 97 Part Number - 7 Pages - 1110-8

Survival for all stages of bowel cancer

Generally for people with bowel cancer in England:

  • almost 80 out of 100 people (almost 80%) survive their cancer for 1 year or more
  • almost 60 out of 100 people (almost 60%) survive their cancer for 5 years or more
  • almost 55 out of 100 people (almost 55%) survive their cancer for 10 years or more

Cancer survival by stage at diagnosis for England, 2019
Office for National Statistics

These figures are for people diagnosed in England between 2013 and 2017. 

These statistics are for net survival. Net survival estimates the number of people who survive their cancer rather than calculating the number of people diagnosed with cancer who are still alive. In other words, it is the survival of cancer patients after taking into account that some people would have died from other causes if they had not had cancer.

What affects survival

Your outlook depends on the stage of the cancer when it was diagnosed. This means how big it is and whether it has spread.

The type of cancer and grade of the cancer cells can also affect your survival. Grade means how abnormal the cells look under the microscope.

Your general health and fitness also affect survival, the fitter you are, the better you may be able to cope with your cancer and treatment.

Some bowel cancers make a protein called carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA). People wth high CEA levels before treatment may have a worse outlook. 

Bowel cancer can sometimes cause a blockage in the bowel (bowel obstruction). If this happens, you have a small risk of developing a hole in the wall of the bowel. This is called perforation. People with bowel cancer who have an obstruction or perforation of the bowel have a worse outlook.  

About these statistics

The terms 1 year survival and 5 year survival don't mean that you will only live for 1 or 5 years.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) and researchers collect information. They watch what happens to people with cancer in the years after their diagnosis. 5 years is a common time point to measure survival. But some people live much longer than this.

5 year survival is the number of people who have not died from their cancer within 5 years after diagnosis.

More statistics

For more in-depth information about survival and bowel cancer, go to our Cancer Statistics section.

Last reviewed: 
06 Nov 2020
Next review due: 
03 Nov 2023
  • Cancer survival by stage at diagnosis for England, 2019
    Office for National Statistics

  • Surgical management and outcomes of colorectal cancer liver metastases
    E J A Morris and others
    British Journal of Surgery Year - 2010 Volume Number - 97 Part Number - 7 Pages - 1110-8