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 cancer or rectal cancer.
Symptoms of bowel cancer include blood in your stools (faeces), an unexplained change in your bowel habits, such as prolonged diarrhea or constipation, and unexplained weight loss.
Cancer can sometimes start in the small bowel (small intestine), but small bowel cancer is much rarer than large bowel cancer.
Who is affected by bowel cancer?
In England, bowel cancer is the third most common type of cancer. In 2009, there were 41,142 new cases of bowel cancer registered in the UK:
- 18,431 cases were diagnosed in women, making it the second most common cancer in women after breast cancer
- 22,711 cases were diagnosed in men, making it the third most common cancer after prostate and lung cancer
Approximately 72% of bowel cancer cases develop in people who are 65 or over. Two-thirds of bowel cancers develop in the colon, with the remaining third developing in the rectum.