Bowel Cancer 

What is bowel cancer screening? 


Bowel cancer is the general term for cancer that starts in the large bowel.  Depending on where the cancer starts, it can sometimes be called colon or rectal cancer. 

Bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the UK. 

Risk factors for bowel cancer  


Age – almost 9 in 10 people with bowel cancer are aged 60 or over 

Diet – a diet high in red or processed meats and low in fibre can increase your risk 


Weight – bowel cancer is more common in overweight or obese people 


Exercise – being inactive increases your risk of getting bowel cancer 


Alcohol – drinking alcohol can increase your risk of getting bowel cancer 


Smoking – smoking may increase your chances of getting bowel cancer 


Family history – having a close relative (mother or father, brother or sister) who has had bowel cancer under the age of 50 puts you at a greater lifetime risk of developing bowel cancer.  Screening is available and you can discuss this with your GP Practice. 

How can you reduce your risk of bowel cancer?  


Screening – complete and return your bowel cancer screening test (FIT test) 

Change your diet – eat less red and processed meats.  Eat more fibre

Manage your weight – maintain a healthy weight  

Get more active – maintain regular physical exercise – exercise guidelines 

Manage your Alcohol consumption – keep an eye on how much alcohol you drink, stay within the recommended units  

Quit Smoking – quitting smoking can reduce your risk of getting cancer 

Common symptoms of bowel cancer  


The 3 main symptoms of bowel cancer are: 

  • Persistent blood in your poo – for no obvious reason  

  • A persistent change in your bowel habit – having a poo more and your poo may also become more running 

  • Persistent lower abdominal (tummy) pain, bloating or discomfort – that’s always caused by eating and may be associated with loss of appetite or significant unintentional weight loss 

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Know the symptoms

When bowel cancer is diagnosed early, your chances of successful treatment are much higher. In this video, Dr Deepak Kumar talks about the ABCD of bowel cancer symptoms and what you should be looking out for. If you’re worried about any symptoms, it’s really important that you speak to your GP as early as possible.

Testing for bowel cancer 

Bowel Cancer Screening - If you are aged between 60 and 74, make sure you complete and return your free bowel cancer screening test kit as soon as it’s possible to do so. 


GP appointment – If you are concerned, make an appointment with your GP, they’ll ask about your symptoms and whether you have a family history of bowel cancer.  They may also carry out some simple tests. 


Hospital tests – If your symptoms suggest you require further investigation, your GP can refer you to your local hospital for a simple examination called a flexible sigmoidoscopy.  Further hospital test information. 

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Bowel Cancer Screening Free Helpline – 0800 707 60 60 

Who to contact for help or information​

GP Directory - locate your local GP


Local cancer support services - find support and information in our local cancer directory 


Cancer Care Map is a simple, online resource that aims to help you find cancer support services in your local area