What is Bowel Cancer?

Bowel cancer is a broad term for cancer that begins in the large bowel, which is made up of the colon and rectum. Bowel cancer is most likely to occur in people over the age of 50, but it can affect any adult and occasionally, young people in their teens. When younger people get bowel cancer it is almost always caused by inherited conditions. In older people, bowel cancer is most likely to be caused by lifestyle factors.

What is cancer?

Cancer occurs when damaged cells divide at an accelerated rate, outpacing surrounding healthy cells. Eventually this collection of mutated cells (called a tumour) will begin to interfere with the normal function of the organ where it is situated. Untreated, it will continue to grow and spread to other nearby organs. Eventually cells will enter the lymph system and spread to other parts of the body (Stage4); at this point cancer becomes very hard to treat successfully.

Illustration showing the development of bowel cancer over a 10 year period.

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