What is bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is the second biggest cause of cancer death in Australia. 

It can occur in any part of the colon or rectum, either growing from the inner lining of the bowel or from small growths on the bowel wall called adenomas or polyps

Undetected, bowel cancer can spread into the wall of the bowel, the lymph nodes (glands) and then to other organs. 

If you are 50 or over, you are at higher risk of developing bowel cancer. But if detected early, over 90% of bowel cancers can be successfully treated.

Diagram of the Lower Digestive System | Bowel Cancer Screening

What are the symptoms of bowel cancer? 

Bowel cancer can develop without symptoms, but many people with bowel cancer do experience symptoms. These can include:

  • blood in your poo or in the toilet bowl
  • a recent and persistent change in your toilet habit, such as looser poos, severe constipation and/or if you need to poo more often than usual
  • unexplained tiredness or weight loss
  • stomach pain.

If you notice any of these, it is important that you speak to your doctor straight away.

Bowel screening spots the early signs of bowel cancer, before symptoms may appear – screening is the best way to find bowel cancer early when successful treatment is likely.

We recommend all Australians aged 50-74 take part in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. If you’re aged 50-74, you will receive a free at-home screening test every two years in the mail through the program. Do the test – it could save your life.