About Bowel Cancer

In this section you can find out more about:

This will help to give you a better understanding of the disease. Remember, if you want to know more or you have further questions, note them down and speak to your medical professional.

What is Bowel Cancer?

Bowel cancer is sometimes called colorectal cancer. If you have bowel cancer, it means a tumour has grown in either the colon (large bowel) or the rectum (the part of the colon closest to the anus). Most cases of bowel cancer develop slowly over several years and begin as small non-cancerous growths called polyps. Over time, these polyps can become cancerous.


Who gets Bowel Cancer?

Bowel cancer is common and New Zealand has one of the highest rates of this type of cancer in the world. Each year, around 3000 new cases of bowel cancer are diagnosed. Bowel cancer is more common in people over the age of 50, but younger people can still develop the disease. If you have a family history of colorectal polyps or inflammatory bowel disease, then you may be at greater risk of developing bowel cancer. If you have this kind of family history, you may want to consider being screened for bowel cancer. There are several lifestyle factors which can increase the risk of bowel cancer:

  • A lack of physical activity
  • A diet high in red and processed meats and low in fruit, vegetables and whole grains
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol use

These are general risk factors only and they do not necessarily mean that you will have bowel cancer. Check with your doctor if you have any concerns.