Find a local campaign

Your questions answered

Need more information? Please use the following frequently asked questions for general guidance. For concerns specific to you, please speak to your GP.

Where is the bowel and what does it do?

The large bowel is a long pipe in the digestive system just below the tummy. It absorbs water and nutrients from food and passes waste out of the body as poo.

 

What is bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer is a disease caused when bowel cells multiply out of control and form a lump called a tumour. The tumour cells can spread to other parts of the body.

 

Why is it so important to spot bowel cancer early?

Most people survive bowel cancer that remain in the bowel if they’re treated at this early stage. But if cells are given time to spread to other parts of the body, the chance of survival reduces significantly.

 

I have haemorrhoids (piles); does this mean blood in my poo can’t be caused by bowel cancer?

No. People with haemorrhoids are as likely to get bowel cancer as anyone else. If you have blood in your poo – even if you have haemorrhoids – always check with your GP.

 

Should I be screened for bowel cancer?

Yes.  Screening tests help to detect bowel cancer early, before you have symptoms and can even prevent you getting bowel cancer in the first place.  See our section on bowel screening.

 

There’s a lot of bowel cancer in my family; what can I do?
If you are concerned about your family history, or risk of developing bowel cancer, you should see your GP. If your doctor agrees that you have a strong family history, they will probably refer you to a specialist genetics service, which will look into your background closely by talking through your family history and asking detailed questions about your family's health and illnesses. You may have blood tests as part of this investigation. 
If the geneticist agrees that you do have a higher than average risk of bowel cancer, you'll then see a bowel specialist. The bowel specialist will talk to you about having regular tests (screening) to pick up any signs of cancer as early as possible. There is information about screening people at high risk of bowel cancer in this section.

There’s a lot of bowel cancer in my family; what can I do?

If you are concerned about your family history or risk of developing bowel cancer, you should see your GP. If your doctor agrees that you have a strong family history, they will probably refer you to a specialist genetics service. This service will look into your background closely by talking through your family history and asking detailed questions about your family's health and illnesses. You may have blood tests as part of this investigation. 

 

Can I reduce my chances of getting bowel cancer?

Yes. Bowel cancer is a very common type of cancer and over half of cases are caused by lifestyle risks that you can control. These include eating too much red and processed meat, having a large waist size, not eating enough fibre and drinking too much alcohol. How much is too much of any of these things? You can find out more at www.nhs.uk by searching for ‘bowel cancer’.