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.
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