What is large bowel cancer?
The bowel is made up of two main parts – the small bowel and the large bowel. Both are part of the digestive system. The colon, rectum and anus make up the large bowel. Cancer in the large bowel is called large bowel cancer or colorectal cancer.
Causes of large bowel cancer
It’s not always clear what cases large bowel cancer. However, certain factors increase your risk. These include:
- A family history of familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC)
- Being overweight
- Heavy drinking and smoking
- One or more family members have had bowel cancer
- Having had inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). For example, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
- Regularly eating red or processed meats
- Certain infections such HPV, HIV (anal cancer) and Helicobacter pylori infections.
- Certain medical conditions such diabetes and gallstones
Symptoms of large bowel cancer
Changes in your usual bowel habit (constipation or diarrhoea)
Feeling and/or being sick
Feeling as if you haven’t emptied your bowel after a bowel movement
Light or dark blood in the stools
Loss of appetite
Pain when passing a bowel movement
Having one or more of these symptoms doesn’t mean you have cancer but it’s best to ask your doctor for advice. The sooner your cancer is detected, the better the chances of treating it successfully.
Test and diagnosis
Your doctor will discuss your symptoms and carry out a physical examination. You may also have:
- Barium enema – this test helps a doctor to get a clear image of the large bowel
- Blood tests
- Colonoscopy – to examine the bowel using a camera. Sometimes a tiny sample of tissue may be taken for analysis (biopsy)
- Scans including CT, PET, MRI or ultrasound
- Sigmoidoscopy or proctoscopy – both tests involve using a camera to examine the large bowel. Your doctor will also take a small tissue sample (biopsy)
- Genetic testing
Treatments we offer
Treatments for bowel cancer may include surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
Radiotherapy kills cancer cells. It’s used in the early stages of cancer treatment or after it has started to spread. It can also be used to relieve pain and discomfort from cancer that has spread.
Meet our doctors
Everything we do is focused on designing better care for our patients. With a network of 12 specialist oncology treatment centres across the UK, we provide the most up-to-date treatments and technology as standard.
We attract and retain some of the most experienced doctors in the country, who all have a passion for improving patient outcomes and specialise in the treatment of different types of cancer.
Search for a centre near you
Unit 710, Centennial Park, Centennial Avenue, Elstree, Borehamwood, WD6 3SZ
+44 (0)208 236 9040
The Park Centre for oncology, Sherwood Lodge Drive, Burntstump Country Park, Nottingham, NG5 8RX
+44 (0)115 966 2250