About Bowel Cancer

Bowel cancer begins in the bowel or the large intestine. Depending on where the cancer starts, bowel cancer can be called rectal or colon cancer. It is one of the most common cancers in the UK and usually affects individuals over 60. 


The most common symptoms experienced in bowel cancer include:

  • Blood in stools
  • Persistent change in bowel movements
  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Bloating


Though the cause of bowel cancer is unclear, some factors increase the risk of developing this condition. Some of these include:

  • Increasing age
  • A diet low in fibre but high in processed meats
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Excess alcohol consumption
  • Family history of bowel cancer
  • Smoking


Bowel cancer can begin in the colon or rectum. The treatment you receive depends upon the type and stage of cancer.

When is Surgery Performed for Bowel Cancer?

Surgery is the preferred treatment for bowel cancer. It is often preceded or succeeded by radiotherapy or chemotherapy to reduce the risk of recurrence. The surgery type will depend upon the location of your cancer, its size and the extent of spread.


Small, early-stage bowel cancer can be treated using local resection, during which the surgeon removes the cancerous tissue from the lining of the intestine (bowel). The tissue resected is sent for analysing of the cancer grade to determine the next steps in treatment. 


A colectomy is performed to remove the entire colon when bowel cancer spreads outside the colon into the muscles surrounding it. Colectomy may be performed in the following three ways:

  1. Open colectomy
  2. Laparoscopic or keyhole colectomy
  3. Robotic surgery

During bowel cancer surgery, affected nearby lymph nodes may also be removed.

Your recovery after bowel cancer surgery depends upon the type of surgery performed. While healing is usually quicker in laparoscopic surgeries, it may take longer to heal in the case of extensive surgeries.

Your doctor and healthcare team will discuss the benefits and side effects of undergoing surgery for bowel cancer. Feel free to ask any queries or concerns you have.

Who is an Ideal Candidate for Bowel Cancer Surgery?

If you have bowel cancer, surgery is recommended in the following scenarios:

  • Very early-stage and early-stage bowel cancer
  • Bowel cancer that has spread outside the colon
  • In advanced bowel cancer that causes bowel blockage or obstruction


Bowel Cancer Surgery Cost in the UK

The cost of bowel cancer surgery in the UK varies depending on the type and stage of cancer, the extent of spread, the type of surgery performed and where it is performed (private vs public healthcare facility. Bowel cancer surgery costs more if you choose a private healthcare facility for it. 


Hospital stay, follow-up visits, and medications can further increase the overall cost of bowel cancer surgery. Insurance coverage covering bowel cancer surgery can make the treatment more affordable. Ask your doctor about the estimated cost of bowel cancer surgery earlier on.


Other Treatments for Bowel Cancer

Apart from surgery, other treatment options for bowel cancer are:


  • Chemotherapy

In stages 2 and 3 of bowel cancer, surgery is usually followed by chemotherapy or a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy (chemoradiation). Using chemotherapy after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells and reduce the risk of cancer recurrence is called adjuvant therapy. Most people with stage 1 bowel cancer do not require chemotherapy after surgery.


  • Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy may be used to treat bowel cancer for the following reasons:

  • Before surgery to shrink the tumour and enable easy removal
  • Instead of surgery to stop the growth and spread of bowel cancer in the early stages when surgery is not possible
  • As a palliative treatment to control the symptoms and slow down the spread of cancer


  • Targeted drug therapy

Monoclonal antibodies are targeted drugs that recognise and attack cancer cells with specific proteins. Targeted drug therapy using monoclonal antibodies is used in clinical trials to treat early-stage bowel cancer.


In stage 4 bowel cancer, a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy or targeted drug therapy may be recommended.


Each treatment option causes some side effects. Discuss the same with your doctor.

Talk to Us

It is natural to have questions and concerns about your bowel cancer diagnosis, treatment plan, and the best treatment options for you. Feel free to discuss them with your doctor or seek a second opinion.


If you need help with getting consultation appointments with private oncologists near you or a second opinion with the best bowel cancer specialists in the UK, connect with us now!




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