Bowel Cancer

Bowel cancer is cancer in any part of the large bowel (colon and rectum).

In its early stages bowel cancer often has no symptoms. However, some people may experience:

  • A change in bowel habit, such as diarrhoea, constipation or smaller more frequent bowel movements
  • A feeling of fullness or bloating in the abdomen or rectum
  • A feeling that the bowel hasn't emptied completely after a bowel movement
  • Blood in the stools or on the toilet paper

Screening for this disease is important and patients are encouraged to begin screening regularly from age 50. However, if you have any additional risk factors, then an earlier consultation with your doctor is advised.

Additional risk factors include:

  • Personal or family history of bowel cancer
  • History of large polyps in the bowel
  • History of long standing Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis


Surgery is the primary treatment for colon cancer. This may be followed by chemotherapy in selected high-risk patients. Radiation therapy is rarely used for colon cancer. Surgery is also the primary treatment for rectal cancer. However, depending on the location, size or stage pre-operative radiation therapy with or without chemotherapy is often recommended.

External Beam Radiation Therapy for Rectal Cancer
Patients considered for radiation therapy may receive this in the following situations:

  • Before surgery (called pre-operative or neo-adjuvant therapy) to help shrink the cancer, making it smaller and easier to remove at the time of surgery, or
  • Less commonly, it is given after surgery (post-operative or adjuvant therapy) to treat any potential microscopic disease that may remain.
  • To effectively control symptoms such as bleeding and pain in inoperable or palliative patients.

Radiation therapy for rectal cancer is usually delivered on a daily basis for 10-15 minutes over a 6-week course. Treatment is administered using a linear accelerator and may involve applying newer techniques such as Volumetric Modulated Arc Therapy (VMAT).


External beam radiation therapy services for bowel cancer are available at all Genesis CancerCare Queensland centres.

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