Fundamentally, bowel cancer and colon cancer are the same, however bowel cancer is the more general term for cancer of the large bowel (also known as the large intestine) and colon cancer is more specific to the place in which the cancer started.
Bowel cancer is also known collectively as colorectal cancer, as cancer may be present in both the colon and rectum.
Most people diagnosed with it are over the age of 60 and it’s one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed.
Bowel cancer can affect your daily life in different ways, depending on what stage it's at and any treatment you're having.
What are the symptoms of bowel cancer?
- Persistent stomach pains and bloating caused by eating, particularly in the lower abdomen.
- If you frequently notice blood in your feces.
- Having to excrete more frequently along with it being runnier in texture.
If you have any of these symptoms for 3 weeks or more, you can get screened at home with a Colon Cancer Screening Test. You can then be more informed on whether to make a visit to your Doctor who will examine you.
What causes bowel cancer?
The exact cause of bowel cancer is currently unknown, but there are a number of things that can increase your risk, including:
- Being over 60 (almost 90% of people with bowel cancer are aged 60+)
- Diets high in red or processed meats
- Being overweight or obese
- Being inactive
- Drinking alcohol and/or smoking
- Having a parent or sibling who developed bowel cancer under 50
Some people also have an increased risk of bowel cancer because they've had another condition, such as extensive ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease in the colon for more than 10 years.
Although there are some risks you cannot change, such as your age or family history, there are several ways you can lower your chances of developing the condition.
Treatments for bowel cancer
Bowel cancer can be treated using a combination of different treatments, depending on where the cancer is in your bowel and how far it has spread.
Keyhole surgery is now being used more often, which allows surgery to be performed with less pain and has much faster recovery times.
The main treatments are:
This is where the cancerous section of bowel is removed. It's the most effective way of curing bowel cancer and in many cases is all that’s needed.
This is where radiation is used to kill cancer cells.
This is where medication is used to kill cancer cells.
A newer group of medicines that increases the effectiveness of chemotherapy and prevents the cancer spreading.
As with most types of cancer, the chance of a complete cure depends on how far it's spread by the time it's diagnosed. If the cancer is confined to the bowel, surgery may be able to completely remove it.