Bowel (colorectal) cancer is an adenocarcinoma (cancer of the lining) of the colon or rectum. Roughly speaking two thirds of bowel cancer occur in the colon and one third in the rectum (lower bowel).
It is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed in the UK, with around 40,000 new cases diagnosed every year. About 1 in every 20 people in the UK will develop bowel cancer in their lifetime.
Signs and symptoms
The three main symptoms of bowel cancer are blood in the stools (faeces), changes in bowel habit such as more frequent, looser stools and abdominal (tummy) pain.
However, these symptoms are very common and most people with them do not have bowel cancer. For example, blood in the stools is more often caused by haemorrhoids (piles), and a change in bowel habit or abdominal pain is usually the result of something you have eaten.
As almost 9 out of 10 people with bowel cancer are over the age of 60, these symptoms are more important as people get older. They are also more significant when they persist despite simple treatments.
Risk factors for bowel cancer
It’s not known exactly what causes bowel cancer, but there are a number of things that can increase the risk as below:
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