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Bowel Cancer Awareness

What is bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer is also referred to as colorectal, colon or rectal cancer. Nearly all bowel cancers develop in the large bowe - two-thirds of these are in the colon and one-third in the rectum.

Most bowel cancers develop from polyps which are usually non-cancerous and, once detected, can be removed easily if caught early enough.

The bowel is divided into the small bowel (small intestine) and the large bowel (colon and rectum).

Cancer of the small bowel is rare with only just over 700 people diagnosed in the UK each year.

On our website, "bowel cancer" refers to cancer of the large bowel and not small bowel cancer.

The bowel is divided into four sections:

  • ascending
  • transverse
  • descending
  • sigmoid


The bowel is part of our digestive system. Food passes from the stomach to the small bowel. After the small bowel takes nutrients into the body, any undigested food passes through the large bowel, where water is removed from the waste matter. This waste matter is held in the rectum (back passage) until it leaves the body as bowel motions (also known as poo, stools or faeces).

Cancer occurs when cells in your bowel multiply out of control. These cells can invade surrounding tissue and spread to other parts of the body.


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