What is bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer, also known every bit colorectal cancer, develops from the inner lining of the bowel too is unremarkably preceded past growths called polyps, which may get invasive cancer if undetected. Depending on where the cancer begins, bowel cancer may live called colon or rectal cancer.

It is estimated thatmore than fifteen,700 people were diagnosed amongst bowel cancer inward 2022. The average age at diagnosis is 69 years one-time.

Bowel cancer is the 4th most commonly diagnosed cancer inward Commonwealth of Australia, and it is estimated that one inwards nineteen people will live diagnosed by the time they are 85.

About 90 per cent of bowel cancers are adenocarcinomas, whichkickoff inwards the glandular tissues lining the bowel. Other less mutual types of cancer can also affect the bowel, including lymphomas and neuroendocrine tumours.

Cancer tin can also showtime inward the minor bowel but this is a rare cancer.

Learn more nigh how Cancer Council researchers aretackling bowel cancer on a national scale.

Symptoms of bowel cancer include:

  • modify inward bowel habit including diarrhoea, constipation or the feelingof incomplete emptying
  • a alter in the appearance or consistency of bowel movements such equally sparse bowel stools
  • blood inwards the stools
  • abdominal pain, bloating or cramping
  • anal or rectal hurting
  • a lump in the anus or rectum
  • weight loss
  • unexplained fatigue
  • tiredness and/or anaemia (pale complexion, weakness and breathlessness)
  • blood in the urine or passing urineoften or during the night, alter inward urine color – black, rusty or chocolate-brown.

Causes of bowel cancer

Some factors that increase your gamble of bowel cancer include:

  • a diet low inwards fibre
  • high crimson meat consumption, particularly processed meats
  • being overweight or obese
  • alcohol consumption
  • smoking tobacco
  • inherited genetic chance and family unit history
  • inflammatory bowel affliction such as Crohn’s illness
  • polyps
  • having a previous diagnosis of bowel cancer.


Diagnosis of bowel cancer

A number of tests are used to diagnose bowel cancer. Initially, your medico volition give you a physical examination to experience if yous have got whatsoever abdominal swelling. Your doc volition also give you lot a digital rectal exam to cheque for any lumps orswelling inwards the rectum or anus.

Blood tests

You may have a blood try to run into if there are whatsoever signs that you lot are losing blood inwards your stools. It tin can also bank check your ruby-red blood jail cell count every bit low ruddy blood cells are common inward people alongside bowel cancer.

Immunochemical faecal occult blood try out (iFOBT)

You may have got an iFOBT depending on yoursymptoms. The try may live used if you lot have got abdominal hurting, changes to their bowel habits, unexplained weight loss, or anaemia. It is non recommended if you lot are bleeding from the rectum.

With the iFOBT, yous volition take a sample of your stools at dwelling house. The sample is examined under a microscope for traces of blood which could be a sign of polyps, cancer, or some other bowel condition. It does non diagnose cancer but if blood is detected, your physician volition unremarkably recommend a colonoscopy.


The best essay for bowel cancer is a colonoscopy, which examines the length of the large bowel. Air ispumped into the colon through a flexible subway system that is inserted into the anus. A photographic camera on the end of the metro allows your Dr. to expression for abnormal tissue that is removed for farther test.

Flexible sigmoidoscopy

Flexiblesigmoidoscopy is used to examine the rectum and left side of the lower colon. Any strange tissue tin can be removed for farther test.


AnMRI scan produces detailed cross-sectional pictures of the trunk together with can exhibit the extent of any tumours.

CT scan

CT scans create 3-dimensional pictures of several organs at the same time too tin can live used to examine the bowel.

After adiagnosis of bowel cancer

After finding out yous hold bowel cancer, yous may experience shocked, upset, anxious or confused. These are normal responses. A diagnosis of bowel cancer affects each someone differently. For most it will be a hard time, withal, some people care to proceed with their normal daily activities.

Your guide to best bowel cancer tending

Your guide to best cancer aid offers cancer specific guides describing the high-character care yousshould look at every phase of your handling as well as beyond.


Treatment for bowel cancer

Treatment for early bowel cancer


The principal handling for early on bowel cancer is surgical process. The most common operation for cancer that begins inward the colon is acolectomy. The type of colectomy performed will depend on whether all or part of the colon needs to be removed.

Radiation therapy (radiotherapy)

Radiation therapy (radiotherapy) is often used before surgical operation for locally advanced rectal cancer too may live used inwards combination alongside chemotherapy to trim back the number as well as size of cancer cells.

Adjuvant handling

Chemotherapy may live recommended after surgery for rectal or colon cancer. This aims to cut the risk of the cancer returning.

Palliative attention

In some cases of bowel cancer, your medical squad may mouth to you most palliative tending. Palliative attention aims to improve yourlineament of life by alleviating symptoms of cancer, without aiming to cure it.

As good every bit slowing the spread of bowel cancer, palliative treatment tin can salvage hurting together with assist handle other symptoms. Treatment may include radiotherapy, chemotherapy, or other drug therapies.

Treatment for advanced bowel cancer

Systemic treatment

Systemic handling for advanced bowel cancer uses drugs that move through the bloodstream to accomplish cancer cells throughout the torso. Systemic treatment tin can include chemotherapy too targetedtherapies.


You may be offered operation to take pocket-sized secondary cancers if the cancer has spread to other areas of the trunk.

Side effects

Treatment for bowel cancer in addition tofifty-fifty the cancer itself, tin effort side effects. The types as well as severity of whatsoever side effects you lot may experience will depend on the type of treatment you lot have got as well as may vary from individual to mortal. Most side effects are temporary as well as tin live prevented, reduced or managed.

Some of the side effects you may experience include:

  • fatigue
  • nausea and vomiting
  • hair loss
  • existence more than prone to infections
  • changes to bowel habits such equally diarrhoea, constipation, incontinence orminor amounts of haemorrhage from the anus
  • oral cavity problems
  • changes inwards appetite, sense of taste in addition to odor
  • high blood pressure
  • changes to retention and thinking
  • changes to fertility too sexual office.

Talk to your health care team near whatsoever changes yous experience during as well as later handling.

Treatment Team

Depending on your handling, your handling squad may consist of a number of unlike health professionals, such as:

  • GP (General Practitioner) – looks afterward your full general health too industrial plant amongst your specialists to coordinatehandling.
  • Colorectal surgeon – diagnoses bowel cancer in addition to performs bowel surgical procedure.
  • Gastroenterologist – specialises inward diseases of the digestive arrangement.
  • Medical oncologist – prescribes too coordinates the course of chemotherapy.
  • Radiation oncologist – prescribes in addition to coordinates radiation therapy handling.
  • Cancer nurse – assists alongside treatment in addition to provides information as well as support throughout your handling.
  • Dietitian – recommends an eating design tofollow while you are inward treatment as well as recovery.
  • Other allied health professionals – such as social workers, pharmacists, as well as counsellors.


Screening for bowel cancer

Screening, using a non-invasive try for blood inward the faeces that can live done at home, isrecommended for all Australians aged 50 to 74. Known equally the immunochemical faecal occult blood test (iFOBT), the examine is exclusively for depression-take chances people with no symptoms of bowel cancer. The iFOBT is non for people alongside a medically meaning family unit history of bowel cancer, who may demand screening colonoscopies.

As of 2020, the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, using iFOBT, is offered gratuitous every ii years to all Australians aged 50 to 74. iFOBT kits are sent to the abode mailing address of eligible Australians too completed samples are required to be returned for review in a pathology laboratory

For further info or to social club a gratuitous replacement kit, phone call 1800 627 701 or see cancerscreening.gov.au.


Preventing bowel cancer

The take chances of bowel cancer can live reduced by a good for you diet amongst enough of fresh fruit in addition to vegetables, limiting consumption of ruby-red meat, avoiding processed meats, non smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, being physically active,and maintaining a good for you body weight.


Prognosis for bowel cancer

Prognosis refers to the expected outcome of a affliction. It is non possible for any doc to predict the exact class of the disease. An private’s prognosis depends on the type together with phase of cancer, as well as their historic period too full general wellness at the fourth dimension of diagnosis. Thisinformation will also aid your Dr. to propose on the best handling options.

Generally, the before bowel cancer is diagnosed, the better the outcomes.



  • Understanding Bowel Cancer, Cancer Council Commonwealth of Australia © 2021. Last medical review of source booklet: January 2021. Expert reviewers:A/Prof David A Clark, Colorectal Surgeon, Royal Brisbane as well as Women’s Hospital, together with The University of Queensland, QLD, as well as The University of Sydney, NSW; A/Prof Siddhartha Baxi, Radiation Oncologist in addition to Medical Director, GenesisCare Gold Coast, QLD; Dr Hooi Ee, Specialist Gastroenterologist in addition to Head, Department of Gastroenterology, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA; AnnieHarvey, Consumer; A/Prof Louise Nott, Medical Oncologist, Icon Cancer Centre, Hobart, TAS; Caley Schnaid, Accredited Practising Dietitian, GenesisCare, St Leonards and Frenchs Forest, NSW; Chris Sibthorpe, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland; Dr Alina Stoita, Gastroenterologist too Hepatologist, St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney, NSW; Catherine Trevaskis, Gastrointestinal Cancer Specialist Nurse, Canberra Hospital, ACT; Richard Vallance, Consumer.
  • Australian Institute ofHealth too Welfare. Cancer data inwards Commonwealth of Australia. Canberra: AIHW, 2022.

This info was concluding updated January 2023.