Bowel cancer

Bowel cancer

What is bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer is cancer in any part of the large bowel (colon or rectum). It is sometimes also known as colorectal cancer.

Bowel cancer grows from the inner lining of the bowel. It may develop from growths on the bowel wall called polyps. Polyps are usually harmless (benign), but they may become cancerous (malignant) over time.

Read more about bowel cancer.

Bowel cancer symptoms

In its early stages, bowel cancer often has no symptoms. However, some people may experience symptoms such as:

  • a change in bowel habits, such as diarrhoea, constipation, or smaller, more frequent bowel movements
  • a feeling of fullness or bloating in the bowel or rectum
  • a feeling that the bowel hasn’t emptied completely after a bowel movement
  • blood in the stools or on the toilet paper.

Read more about other symptoms of bowel cancer.

Bowel cancer statistics

  • Bowel cancer is the second most common cancer affecting people in Australia
  • In 2014, about 16,980 Australians are expected to be diagnosed with bowel cancer.
  • About one in 17 men and one in 25 women will develop bowel cancer before the age of 75.
  • It is most common in people over 50, but it can occur at any age.

The aim of this information is to help you understand about bowel cancer. We cannot advise you about the best treatment for you. You need to discuss this with your doctors. However, we hope this information will answer some of your questions and help you think about the questions you would like to ask your doctors or other health carers.