Treatment for early bowel cancer
Colon cancer and rectal cancer are treated differently. Your health care team will recommend treatment based on what will give you the best outcome, where the cancer is in the bowel, whether and how the cancer has spread, your general health, and your preferences.
The treatments you are offered will depend on the guidelines for best practice in treating bowel cancer. You may be offered a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and chemoradiation. This section covers treatment for stages 1–3 bowel cancer.
Learn more about treatment options for advanced bowel cancer.
Learn more about:
- Treatment options by type of bowel cancer
- What to do before treatment
- Making treatment decisions
- Radiation therapy
Many people with bowel cancer have anaemia or low iron levels. You may be given iron as tablets or injections to increase your iron levels and blood count (total number of white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets) before starting treatment.
Improve diet and nutrition
People with bowel cancer often lose weight and may become malnourished. A dietitian can suggest ways to change your diet to limit weight loss, reduce blockages and make having bowel movements easier. This will help improve your strength and lead to better treatment outcomes.
Give up smoking
If you are a smoker, you will be encouraged to stop smoking before surgery. If you continue to smoke, you may not respond as well to treatment, and smoking may make any side effects you experience worse. For support, call the Quitline on 13 7848.
Podcast: Making Treatment Decisions
A/Prof David A Clark, Colorectal Surgeon, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, and The University of Queensland, QLD, and The University of Sydney, NSW; A/Prof Siddhartha Baxi, Radiation Oncologist and Medical Director, GenesisCare Gold Coast, QLD; Dr Hooi Ee, Specialist Gastroenterologist and Head, Department of Gastroenterology, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, WA; Annie Harvey, 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 and Hepatologist, St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney, NSW; Catherine Trevaskis, Gastrointestinal Cancer Specialist Nurse, Canberra Hospital, ACT; Richard Vallance, Consumer.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.