Bowel Cancer
Bowel Cancer

Over 22,000 men are diagnosed every year

Bowel Cancer

Bowel Cancer is the 4th most common Cancer in the UK, and is more common in older age groups.

Bowel Cancer (sometimes called Colorectal Cancer) is one of the biggies. Bowel Cancer is the general term for Cancer that begins in the large bowel, it can also sometimes be called either Colon Cancer or Rectal Cancer – depending on where the Cancer starts.

Bowel Cancer is the 4th most common Cancer in the UK (after Breast, Lung and Prostate Cancer), and is more common in older age groups.

As we get older polyps (benign growths) are more common and can start appearing on the wall of the bowel. Polyps generally don’t produce any symptoms and most aren’t pre-cancerous.

However, some polyps can end up becoming cancerous. If left undetected, Bowel Cancer can often grow slowly over a period of up to 10 years before
then starting to spread to other parts of the body.

Cancer can also sometimes start in the small intestine (small bowel). But Small Bowel Cancer is very rare in comparison to Large Bowel Cancer.

Over 22,000 men are diagnosed with Bowel Cancer in the UK every year

14,000 of the Bowel Cancer cases in men are found to be Colon Cancer, with more than 8,000 being Rectal Cancer

73% of Bowel Cancer cases are diagnosed in those aged 65+

75% of men survive Bowel Cancer for at least a year, with 54% still alive for 5 years or more after diagnosis


There are number of factors that could make you more likely to develop Bowel Cancer. These include:

  • A family history of Bowel Cancer
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • Obesity
  • Inactivity
  • A diet that includes a lot of red and processed meat

Some simple ways to reduce your risk of developing Bowel Cancer can include upping your intake of fibre, and reducing the amount of saturated fat you eat. You can also try being more active everyday – just a couple of hours of moderate exercise (such as vacuuming or brisk walking) can reduce your risk by up to one-fifth.


One thing to look out for is a change in bowel habit that lasts for more than three weeks e.g. constipation or diarrhoea.

Other common symptoms can include:

  • Blood in your poo (which makes it darker)
  • A lump in your stomach
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Feeling bloated
  • Vomiting

Remember, if you’ve one or more of these symptoms this doesn’t mean you have Cancer. It just means you should visit your doctor.

As Bowel Cancer is most common in the 60+ age group, the NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme invites everyone in their 60s to take complete a screening kit called the FOB test (which stands for faecal occult blood, in case you were wondering).

As Bowel Cancers sometimes bleed, this test works by detecting tiny amounts of blood which can’t usually be spotted in bowel movements. If the test finds anything unusual, you’ll be offered an appointment with a specialised nurse who will usually then perform a colonoscopy to investigate further.

Find out how you complete the FOB test


Bowel Cancer can affect people under 60 too. So if you spot any suspect symptoms, don’t wait for your FOB test, visit your doctor.

What happens when you see your GP? Sorry to break it to you guys, but it could be a rectal examination.

All this means is your doctor inserts a gloved finger into your rectum to feel for a lump. It only takes a couple of minutes, it doesn’t hurt and helps your doctor make the best decision on what to do next.

Depending on your symptoms, you may be asked to go to hospital for further checks. This doesn’t mean they have found anything serious. It is just a way of making sure they know as much as they can about your symptoms.

Other Cancer Types: