Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is a type of cancer that develops in the colon or rectum, both of which are parts of the large intestine. This type of cancer usually begins as small, benign clumps of cells called polyps that form on the inside of the colon. Over time some of these polyps can become colon cancers.

Symptoms of bowel cancer can include persistent changes in bowel habits, such as diarrhea or constipation, rectal bleeding or blood in the stool, abdominal discomfort or bloating, unexplained weight loss, and fatigue.

Bowel cancer

Factors that can increase the risk of bowel cancer include older age, a personal history of polyps or colorectal cancer, inflammatory intestinal conditions, inherited syndromes that increase colon cancer risk, low-fiber and high-fat diet, a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, smoking, alcohol, radiation therapy for cancer and certain genetic factors.

Early detection through regular screening is crucial in managing this disease, as it is often more treatable in the early stages. Treatment options for bowel cancer can include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and targeted drug therapy.

Causes of Bowel cancer

Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, can be caused by several underlying factors. These include:

1. Age: Bowel cancer is more common in older people, especially those over 50 years of age.

2. Genetics: People with close relatives (a parent, sibling, or child) who got bowel cancer under the age of 50, or who have certain inherited genetic conditions such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or Lynch syndrome, are at a higher risk.

3. Lifestyle: Lack of physical activity, a diet high in processed or red meats and low in fiber, being overweight or obese, smoking, and excessive consumption of alcohol can all contribute to the risk of bowel cancer.

4. Chronic conditions: Certain long-standing conditions like inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis) and Type 2 diabetes may increase the risk of this cancer.

5. Polyps: Bowel cancer often develops from pre-cancerous growths, known as polyps, in the bowel. Not all polyps turn into cancer, but large polyps and those with certain cellular characteristics are more likely to become cancerous.

Remember, these are risk factors – having one or more does not necessarily mean you will get bowel cancer. Regular screening and discussions with your doctor about your personal risk can help detect bowel cancer early or prevent it altogether.

Risk Factors of Bowel cancer

Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is influenced by several risk factors:

1. Age: The risk of developing bowel cancer increases with age. The majority of cases are diagnosed in people over 60.

2. Family history: A history of bowel cancer in close relatives (parents, siblings, or children) may double an individual’s risk of developing this condition, especially if the relative was diagnosed at a younger age.

3. Diet: A diet that’s high in red or processed meats and low in fibre can raise bowel cancer risk.

4. Exercise: Lack of physical activity or a sedentary lifestyle can increase the risk.

5. Smoking and Alcohol: Both are known risk factors for bowel cancer.

6. Weight: Being overweight or obese raises the risk of developing bowel cancer.

7. Other conditions: People with certain conditions are more at risk. These include Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, diabetes, acromegaly, and certain hereditary conditions such as Lynch syndrome and familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP).

8. Previous cancer: If you’ve previously had bowel cancer, you’re at a higher risk of developing it again.

9. Radiation: Individuals exposed to radiation therapy focused on the abdomen may have a heightened risk.

10. Medications: Certain types of medicines, such as some immunosuppressive drugs, may increase the risk.

It’s crucial to note that having one or more of these risk factors does not guarantee that an individual will develop bowel cancer. It simply raises the odds. Regular screening and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help catch early signs and mitigate some risks. If you fall into a high-risk category, it’s important to have regular discussions with your healthcare provider.

Signs and Symptoms of Bowel cancer

Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, involves cancerous growths in the colon, rectum, or appendix. The signs and symptoms of bowel cancer can vary but generally include the following:

1. Persistent changes in bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool.

2. Blood in the stool or rectal bleeding.

3. Persistent abdominal discomforts, such as cramps, gas, or pain.

4. Feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely.

5. Weakness or fatigue.

6. Unexplained weight loss.

7. Iron-deficiency anemia, which might be due to chronic blood loss.

8. Lumps in your abdomen.

It’s crucial to remember that these symptoms can also be due to conditions other than bowel cancer, like infection, hemorrhoids, or inflammatory bowel disease. However, if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms persistently, it’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and diagnosis.

Diagnosis Bowel cancer

Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is a type of cancer that starts in the colon or rectum. It might start as small, benign clumps of cells called polyps that over time can develop into cancer.

The diagnosis of bowel cancer generally involves several steps:

1. Medical History and Physical Exam: The process often starts with a thorough examination of the individual’s medical history, symptoms, and a physical examination.

2. Blood Tests: Blood tests can show if patients are anemic, which can result from bleeding in the colon or rectum. Additionally, a blood test called CEA (Carcinoembryonic Antigen) may be used to assess for bowel cancer, but it’s not specific to bowel cancer and can be increased in other conditions too.

3. Colonoscopy or Sigmoidoscopy: During these procedures, a tube with a camera on the end is inserted into the rectum to view the bowel. This allows the doctor to see any unusual areas or polyps in your rectum or colon.

4. Biopsies: A tissue sample is taken from the suspicious area during the colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy and sent to a lab to check for cancer cells.

5. Imaging Tests: Doctors may use CT scans, MRIs, or PET scans to check if cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

These diagnostic tests provide the information needed to determine the stage of the cancer, which helps doctors plan the most effective treatment strategy. Early detection is crucial because bowel cancer is a lot more treatable in the early stages.

Treatment of Bowel cancer

The treatment of bowel cancer depends on various factors such as the size and location of the tumor, the stage of the cancer (how much it has spread), and the patient’s overall health. It usually involves one or more of the following methods:

1. Surgery: This is the most common treatment for bowel cancer. The type of operation will depend on the size and position of the cancer.

Local resection: When the cancer is caught at a very early stage, the surgeon might be able to remove it completely during a colonoscopy.

Polypectomy: If the cancer started from a polyp, the polyp would usually be removed during a colonoscopy.

Colectomy: More advanced stages of cancer may require removing part or all of the colon.

2. Chemotherapy: This is the use of drugs to kill cancer cells. It is most often given after surgery if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. This can help to kill any remaining cancer cells and reduce the risk of the cancer coming back.

3. Radiation therapy: This uses high-energy X-rays to destroy the cancer cells. It’s not commonly used to treat bowel cancer, but may be used to treat rectal cancer or to relieve symptoms of bowel cancer.

4. Targeted Therapy: This is the use of drugs or other substances to specifically identify and attack specific cancer cells without harming normal cells. They are typically used in combination with chemotherapy or other treatments.

5. Immunotherapy: This is a type of cancer treatment which helps your immune system to fight cancer.

Regular follow-ups after successful treatment are crucial to keep track of the patient’s health and to check if the cancer has come back or spread, as well as to monitor for any long term side effects of the treatment. Also, lifestyle modifications such as a healthy diet, regular exercise, and quitting smoking can help prevent the recurrence of bowel cancer.

As always, the decision on the type of treatment is best made in consultation with the medical team, who knows the patient’s case in detail.

Medications commonly used for Bowel cancer

Bowel cancer, also known as colon or rectal cancer, is usually treated with a combination of therapies including surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy drugs. The type, stage of the cancer, and the individual’s overall health will be considered while deciding the most suitable treatment.

Some of the common medications used to treat bowel cancer are:

1. Fluorouracil (5-FU): It is a chemotherapeutic drug that interferes with cancer cell growth by blocking the cell’s ability to create DNA and RNA.

2. Capecitabine (Xeloda): It’s an oral chemotherapy drug that is converted to 5-FU in the body and works similarly.

3. Folinic acid (Leucovorin): It is used to enhance the effect of 5-FU.

4. Oxaliplatin (Eloxatin): This is a platinum-based drug that works by stopping cancer cell growth and division.

5. Irinotecan (Camptosar): This interferes with the enzyme topoisomerase, which prevents DNA replication and promotes cell death.

6. Bevacizumab (Avastin), Cetuximab (Erbitux), and Panitumumab (Vectibix) are targeted therapies. They target specific proteins or processes that cancer cells need to grow and survive.

7. Immunotherapeutic drugs like Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) or Nivolumab (Opdivo) may be used in cases where the cancer has specific genetic features.

These drugs can be used individually or in combination. Your doctor will recommend a treatment course depending on the specifics of the diagnosis and your overall health condition.

Prevention of Bowel cancer

Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, typically starts in the large intestine or the rectum. Prevention and early detection can significantly reduce the chances of developing this disease. Here are some common preventive measures:

1. Healthy Diet: Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains can lower your risk of bowel cancer. Limit intake of red and processed meats which are linked to an increased risk of bowel cancer.

2. Physical Activity: Regular exercise can reduce the risk of various forms of cancer, including bowel cancer. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity daily.

3. Maintain a Healthy Weight: Excess weight can increase the risk of bowel cancer. Maintaining a healthy weight can lower your chances of developing many types of cancer.

4. Avoid Tobacco and Limit Alcohol: Both using tobacco and drinking a high amount of alcohol can increase your risk of bowel cancer. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation.

5. Regular Screening: Undergo regular screening tests as these can help prevent bowel cancer by identifying precancerous polyps. Screening can also help in the early detection of cancer, when it’s easier to treat.

6. Genetic Testing: If you have a family history of Bowel cancer, you might consider genetic testing to see if you have a family mutation that increases your risk significantly. If you do, your doctor can suggest preventive measures.

7. Regular Check-Ups: Regular doctor visits, where you can discuss any changes in health or new symptoms, can help in early detection and better prevention.

8. Aspirin: Some researches suggest that a small daily dose of aspirin might lower the risk of bowel cancer. However, this treatment has potential side effects and should only be done under the supervision of a healthcare provider.

Bowel cancer

Remember, while these actions can reduce your risk of bowel cancer, they can’t guarantee prevention. It’s also possible to get Bowel cancer even if you do everything right. Therefore, regular check-ups and screenings are essential. Always consult your healthcare provider for personalised advice.

FAQ’s about Bowel cancer

Sure, here are some frequently asked questions about bowel cancer:

1. What is bowel cancer?
Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, refers to cancer that starts in the large intestine or rectum. It can take years for cells to develop into cancerous ones, therefore early detection is key to successful treatment.

2. What are the symptoms of bowel cancer?
Common symptoms include blood in the stool, unexplained weight loss, a change in bowel habits (like diarrhea or constipation) lasting longer than 3 weeks, and a persistent pain or discomfort in your abdomen.

3. What causes bowel cancer?
The exact cause is not known, but certain factors can increase your risk, such as age (it’s more common in people over 60), a family history of the disease, a diet high in red or processed meats and low in fiber, smoking and alcohol use, lack of physical activity, and existing conditions like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

4. How is bowel cancer diagnosed?
Usually, a doctor would begin by conducting a physical exam, discussing your symptoms, and reviewing your medical/family history. They may suggest a colonoscopy where a camera is used to look for abnormalities in the colon and rectum, and a biopsy may be taken for further investigation. Other tests include blood tests, CT scans or MRI scans.

5. Can bowel cancer be prevented?
While you can’t completely prevent bowel cancer, leading a healthy lifestyle can lower your risk. This includes regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol, and eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

6. How is bowel cancer treated?
Treatment for bowel cancer can vary depending on its stage and location, and generally includes surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and targeted therapies.

7. What is the prognosis for someone with bowel cancer?
If detected early, the prognosis is often very good. However, if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, it’s generally harder to treat and the prognosis is less favorable. The survival rate tends to decrease as the stage of the disease advances.

Remember to consult your doctor for any concerns or inquiries. Early detection and prompt medical attention is crucial for successful treatment.

Useful links

Bowel cancer is also known as colorectal cancer. It starts in the large intestine or the rectum. The term encompasses colon and rectal cancers. It usually affects older adults, but it’s not confined to them. Most bowel cancers start as small, noncancerous clumps of cells known as polyps that, over time, can develop into cancers.

Here’s a list of useful links from well-respected journals and organizations that might be helpful:


Remember to consult with your healthcare provider to decide the best steps for you before changing your health regimen or reading about these topics.

Complications of Bowel cancer

Bowel cancer (also known as colorectal cancer) can lead to numerous complications, due to both the nature of the disease and the treatments required. These complications may include:

1. Bowel Obstruction: As the tumor grows, it can block the passage through the colon or rectum, leading to severe pain, constipation, and intestinal distress. This is a medical emergency and needs immediate treatment.

2. Metastasis: Like any cancer, one of the most serious complications is the spreading (metastasizing) of tumor cells to other parts of the body. Bowel cancer commonly spreads to the liver or lungs, where it can be harder to treat.

3. Perforation: As a tumor grows, it may also cause holes in the wall of the colon or rectum, leading to serious infection (peritonitis) and requiring emergency treatment.

4. Blood Loss: Bowel cancer can lead to chronic, often unnoticed, blood loss that can lead to anemia (a decrease in red blood cells or hemoglobin in the blood).

5. Side effects of treatment: Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy all carry potential side effects. Surgery can lead to changes in bowel movements or even a temporary or permanent colostomy. Chemotherapy and radiation can cause fatigue, nausea, hair loss, and increased susceptibility to infection.

6. Psychological Impact: The diagnosis and treatment of any chronic illness, including cancer, can have a significant psychological impact, with many people experiencing anxiety or depression.

7. Malnutrition: Some people with colorectal cancer develop malnutrition due to loss of appetite or difficulty in digesting and absorbing nutrients, which may affect their recovery and quality of life.

The severity of these complications can vary, depending on the stage and spread of the cancer at the time of diagnosis, the person’s overall health, and their response to treatment. Regular screening for bowel cancer can help detect the disease at an early stage, when treatment is more likely to be successful.

Home remedies of Bowel cancer

Bowel cancer is a serious medical condition that cannot be treated with home remedies. The condition is life-threatening and requires professional medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Treatment options typically include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and targeted therapy. Lifestyle changes, following a healthy diet, and regular exercise can help reduce the risk of developing these cancers. But if you or someone else may have bowel cancer, it’s absolutely essential to seek medical help immediately. No home remedy can replace professional medical care for serious medical conditions like bowel cancer.

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Last Update: January 11, 2024