About bowel cancer

Bobby Moore playing footballBowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the UK, after lung cancer, with 43 people dying from the disease every day in the UK. That’s equivalent to nearly four entire football teams.

1 in 16 people will suffer from bowel cancer at some point in their lifetime, but we’re making great progress at tackling the disease. Since the Bobby Moore Fund was established in 1993, bowel cancer mortality rates have fallen 30%.

A largely preventable disease

The great news is that if bowel cancer is detected at the earliest stage, more than nine out of ten patients will survive the disease for more than five years.  Many bowel cancer cases could be prevented by changes to lifestyle. You can reduce the risk of the disease by  keeping a healthy body weight, being active, eating a healthy, balanced diet, cutting down on alcohol and being a non-smoker.

Find out more about what affects your risk of developing bowel cancer.

It's crucial to spot bowel cancer early

When bowel cancer is diagnosed at the earliest stage, over 90% of bowel cancer patients will survive the disease for more than five years.

If you notice any of the following changes and they last longer than four to six weeks, you should report them to your GP. These symptoms are unlikely to be caused by cancer, but it is better to play safe.

  • Bleeding from the bottom without any obvious reason or blood in your stools
  • A persistent change in bowel habit to looser or more frequent bowel motions
  • Tummy pain, especially if severe
  • A lump in your tummy

It is important to know what is normal for your body and to seek advice from your GP if you notice anything unusual.

Visit the spot cancer early website to watch our video about bowel cancer signs and symptoms.

Screening saves lives

When bowel cancer is caught early, treatment is simpler and more effective. Bowel screening is a way of doing just this, by helping doctors find bowel cancer at an early stage before any symptoms develop, or sometimes by preventing cancer from developing in the first place.

Traces of blood in the stools can be a sign of bowel cancer, so by finding them, screening can help pick up the disease at an early stage when it’s easier to treat. There is a national bowel screening programme for older men and women, which currently uses Faecal Occult Blood Testing (FOBT). FOBT looks for hidden traces of blood in your stools. This test can be done at home using a testing kit received through the post.

Find out more about bowel cancer screening

Questions about bowel cancer?

Cancer Research UK provides clear and easy to understand information for people affected by cancer. Visit our CancerHelp UK website for reliable, up-to-date information on cancer, its treatment and the latest research.

Call Cancer Research UK's team of specialist cancer information nurses between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday on 0808 800 4040.

Visit our Cancer Chat forum and share your information and experiences with others affected by cancer.

Further information

You can access the latest bowel cancer news and order publications relating to bowel cancer by visiting the Cancer Research UK website.