The Concord Cancer Centre provides services for the diagnosis and management of bowel, colon, rectal and anal cancers.
How bowel cancer starts
Bowel cancer seems to start in two ways.
- It can grow from the inner bowel lining.
- It can grow from a small raised area that looks like a mushroom, called a polyp. Most polyps are harmless (benign) but some can become cancerous (malignant).
How common is it?
Bowel cancer is the second most common cancer affecting people in NSW. There are about 6,000 new cases of bowel cancer diagnosed each year. The older you are, the greater your chance of developing bowel cancer. While it affects mainly people over 50, bowel cancer can occur at any age.
What are the causes?
Some people who develop bowel cancer inherit damaged genes from their parents but, for most people, age and lifestyle factors (like eating habits) contribute to developing bowel cancer. Some people with inflammatory bowel disease have an increased risk.
For many people surgery is the main treatment for bowel cancer. The surgeon will cut out the part of the bowel with cancer and then join the two ends of the bowel. If the bowel can't be joined, you will have a stoma. Some people have minimally invasive surgery - this is a term that describes surgical techniques using smaller cuts. This is sometimes called laparoscopic or keyhole surgery. Whether or not you can have minimally invasive surgery depends on the location of the cancer and its size. Recovery time varies, depending on the extent of surgery.
You may have looser and more frequent bowel movements. Bowel function usually improves and becomes more normal over a few months. If this remains a problem discuss things with your doctor or nurse.