Treatment guide

Diagnosis and Treatment of Bowel Cancer

Bowel cancer is found in the large bowel of the human body and depending on where it is exactly located, it could either be colon or rectal cancer.

The content has been reviewed for quality and accuracy to the best of our knowledge by Qunomedical and its Medical Board of Experts.

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Diagnosis and Treatment of Bowel Cancer Quick Details


  • Patients who have been diagnosed with bowel cancer.


  • The 5 year survival rate for colon cancer varies from 12-92% depending on the cancer stage and from 13-88% for rectal cancer.


  • The time of the surgery will vary depending on the type of surgery you are getting, the method used and related factors. On average the surgery should last anywhere from 1-2 hours.

  • Chemotherapy is done in cycles, where you receive medication over the course of a few days and then let your body rest and recover. The duration of a cycle and the number of cycles you have to undergo depends on the medication you are receiving, the type of cancer you have, and the stage of cancer you are in. General factors such as your current age, health status and medical history also play a role.

  • Radiotherapy sessions last for a for a couple of minutes and are carried out 5 days a week, for a few weeks. The total duration depends again on the cancer type and stage and other personal factors.


  • The general as well as the specific risks associated with Bowel cancer surgery are bleeding, infection, pain, blood clots, erectile dysfunction, leakage of bowel, urination problems.

  • Radiotherapy side effects include: fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, changes in skin, erectile dysfunction, infertility, changes in urination frequency.

  • Complications of chemotherapy include hair loss, nausea, loss of appetite, diarrhea, fatigue, mouth sores.

Causes and Symptoms of Bowel Cancer

Causes and Risk Factors

The following risk factors increase your likelihood of being diagnosed with bowel cancer:

  • Age: Bowel cancer is mostly diagnosed in older adults over the ages of 60. The risk of you developing this cancer increases with age

  • Family history: If a close family member has previously had bowel cancer, your chance of being diagnosed increase.

  • Genetics: Certain genetic disorders such as familial adenomatous polyposis and lynch syndrome

  • Smoking: If you smoke, you are at higher risk for developing bowel cancer

  • Alcohol: Too much alcohol has been linked to bowel cancer

  • Obesity: An increased risk of bowel cancer is seen in individuals who are overweight

  • Other digestive disorders: Such as Crohn’s disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Ulcerative colitis


Following are the main symptoms of bowel cancer:

  • Change in the shape of frequency of your bowel habits

  • Blood in your stools

  • Persistent bloating and pain in the lower abdomen

  • Loss of appetite/involuntary weight loss

  • Bowel obstruction

The above mentioned symptoms are very often associated with other diseases of the digestive system. If these symptoms persist, and/or increase in intensity as you grow older they may be a cause for serious concern. A proper diagnosis is therefore necessary.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosis and Screening

Before any other specific or major tests, your GP will perform a digital rectal exam to check for any cancerous lumps. You may be asked to undergo a blood test as well, and based on the results you may be referred for a colonoscopy. More advanced diagnostic tests include:

  • Colonoscopy: In this procedure the doctor uses a long, flexible tube known as a colonoscope to look inside your large bowel.

  • CT colonography: A more detailed image of your bowels are made using a CT scanner

  • Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: Similar to a colonoscopy, but is used to examine the rectum.

How Is Bowel Cancer Treated?


Surgery is one of the main treatments for bowel cancer. Depending on the stage of your cancer, here are the main types of surgeries:

  • Local excision: This surgery is performed for early stage bowel cancer, where only a small part of the colon wall lining will be removed.

  • Colectomy: If the colon cancer has spread to most of the colon and/or surrounding tissue, then a colectomy is performed where the cancerous section of your colon will be removed. The remaining healthy sections are then sutured together.

  • Colostomy/Ileostomy: In certain cases, at the end of your colectomy, to allow your bowel to heal, a section of your bowel is bought out to the abdominal wall and attached to a bag through your skin. Depending on whether the small or large intestine is used to do this, the process is known as a ileostomy or a colostomy respectively.


Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer drugs to kill or shrink the cancer causing cells and to prevent the spread of cancer to other areas of the body. Chemotherapy can be given before, or after the surgery to shrink the tumor and to prevent the cancer from returning respectively. It is also given in combination with radiotherapy or as palliative care for late stage cancer. The specific chemotherapy drug or combination of drugs will be prescribed based on your individual case.

Radiation Therapy 

Radiation therapy works by aiming high energy waves at the cancerous cells. This treatment, as chemotherapy, can be given before and/or after surgery and is also used for shrinking the tumor when surgery is not an option. It is only offered for rectal cancer.

Targeted Therapy

Developments in the field of pharmacology have lead to the development of drugs that target only specific proteins or related elements in the body, in order to kill the cancer cells or prevent them from spreading/returning without harming surrounding cells. Such drugs are often given in combination with chemotherapy drugs, but may also be prescribed alone. In bowel cancer, drugs target the epidermal growth factor receptors found on the cancer cells, when these receptors are targeted, the oncogenesis i.e., the transformation of healthy cells into cancer cells is inhibited. Thereby, shrinking the tumor size and also preventing it from spreading.

What Should I Expect From This Procedure?

Please bear in mind, that your medical history, your environment which includes family and friends, your lifestyle habits, genetics, the type and intensity of cancer you have, all play a role in deciding the course of your treatment. Many times a combination of treatments is recommended, and this may change through the duration of your illness. This is done so the doctor can ensure that you are getting the best possible treatment for your individual case.

How Do I Find the Right Doctor?

We understand that before going through a major treatment like surgery or radiotherapy, you may be feeling unsure and want a second opinion, or you would like to look for the top oncologist specializing in Bowel cancer, or for a clinical trial doing cutting edge research. For support with any of these queries and question, Qunomedical is here for you 24/7.


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