What is bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer is also called colorectal cancer. It affects the large bowel, which is made up of the colon and rectum.

Symptoms of bowel cancer

Symptoms of bowel (colorectal) cancer can include bleeding from the back passage, blood in your poo or a change in your normal bowel habit.

Risks and causes of bowel cancer

The risk factors for bowel (colorectal) cancer include your age, family history, lifestyle factors and other medical conditions.

Getting diagnosed

You usually start by seeing your GP and they might refer you to a specialist and organise tests. Find out more, and read about screening for bowel cancer.


Stages, types and grades of bowel cancer

The stage of a cancer tells you how far it has grown through the bowel wall and whether it has spread to nearby lymph nodes or other organs. It helps your doctor to know which treatment you need.


Treatment depends on whether you have colon or rectal cancer, as well as your cancer stage. You might have surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy or a combination of these. 

Survival for bowel cancer

Survival depends on many factors including the stage of your bowel cancer when you are diagnosed and how it has responded to treatment. The figures for bowel cancer survival can only be used as a general guide.

Research and clinical trials

All treatments must be fully researched before they can be adopted as standard treatment for everyone. Find out about research into bowel (colorectal) cancer, as well as how to take part in clinical trials.

Living with bowel cancer

Getting practical and emotional support can help you cope with your diagnosis, and life during and after treatment.

Advanced bowel cancer

Advanced bowel (colorectal) cancer means cancer that has spread outside your bowel to other parts of your body. Treatment includes chemotherapy, surgery, targeted cancer drugs (biological therapies) and radiotherapy. 

Last reviewed: 
01 Feb 2022
Next review due: 
01 Feb 2025

Page Credits: 

This section has been written, reviewed and updated by Cancer Research UK’s Patient Information Web Team. Thanks to the expert medical professionals and people affected by cancer who have helped to review this information.

  • Mr Manish Chand (Consultant Robotic Colorectal Surgeon)
  • Dr Mike Braun (Consultant Medical Oncologist)
  • Our lay reviewers