What is it?

Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is a type of cancer that affects the colon or rectum. The colon is the lower part of the digestive tract. The rectum is the final part of the digestive tract.

Bowel cancer usually begins when polyps (small clumps of cells) grow in the colon. Over time, polyps can develop into cancer (abnormal cells that multiply and destroy healthy tissue). There are different stages of bowel cancer. People in the early stages of the disease may have no symptoms. Others might notice changes in bowel habits, blood in the stool and stomach pain. 

Treatment depends on the stage, size and location of the cancer and if it has spread. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are the most common treatments.

Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in Australia. It is usually found in people aged over 50. In many cases, bowel cancer can be treated if it is detected early.