Bowel cancer

Bowel cancer is a general term for cancer that begins in the large bowel. Depending on where the cancer starts, bowel cancer is sometimes called colon or rectal cancer.

Read Alan’s bowel cancer story.

Bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed in the UK. There are about 23,500 new cases in men in the UK every year.

The three main symptoms of bowel cancer
  • Persistent blood in your poo – that happens for no obvious reason or is associated with a change in bowel habit
  • A persistent change in your bowel habit – which is usually having to poo more and your poo may also become runnier
  • Persistent lower abdominal (tummy) pain, bloating or discomfort – that’s always caused by eating and may be associated with loss of appetite or significant unintentional weight loss

It’s important to note here that most people with these symptoms don’t have bowel cancer as other health problems can cause similar symptoms, but important to get checked out if you have any concerns.

Lifestyle risk factors
  • A diet high in red meat.
  • Drinking alcohol (especially harmful if combined with smoking).
  • Eating processed meats.
  • Being overweight.
  • Smoking.
  • Being inactive.
  • A diet low in fibre (found in foods such as whole grains, vegetables and fruit).

If you have any of these symptoms or are concerned about any other signs, take action and get checked out by your GP.

More information

The NHS Bowel Cancer Screening Programme provides screening for all men and women aged 60-74 years, and from 50 in Scotland.

For more information about bowel cancer, please visit the NHS website

Read Alan’s bowel cancer story.



Source: NHS, 2020 and World Cancer Research Fund, 2019.