Bowel Cancer Symptoms

Bowel cancer is the development of cancer in the colon or rectum.

Bowel Cancer Symptoms


What Causes Bowel Cancer?

Bowel cancer is caused by the abnormal growth of fast changing cells. Usually these cell changes begin with a polyp. A polyp is an abnormal growth beginning in your colon or rectum. Polyps begin benign (noncancerous) but with time can mutate into cancer. That is why it is so important to remove early polyps, to reduce the chance of cancer developing.


How common is bowel cancer in New Zealand?

Bowel cancer is the second most frequently diagnosed cancer and the second highest cause of cancer death in New Zealand. New Zealand has the third highest bowel cancer death rate in the OECD for women, and the sixth highest for men.

Who is most at risk of developing the disease?

The incidence of bowel cancer increases with age and rises steeply from the age of 50. The risk factors are age (above all), gender, ethnicity and diet. Bowel cancer affects more men than women. Scientists believe a diet high in animal fats and low in fruit and vegetable fibre may contribute to the development of bowel cancer.


What are the Symptoms of Bowel Cancer?

In its early stages people may not experience any symptoms. However symptoms of bowel cancer may include;

  • Ongoing changes in bowel movements (looser than normal, constipation, needing to go more or
    less often)
  • Blood found in the stool or rectal bleeding
  • Frequent Stomach pain, gas or cramps
  • Bowel not emptying completely after movements
  • Unexplained Anaemia
  • Abdominal pain or swelling
  • Weight loss


Please remember that often these symptoms are actually caused by other conditions, medicines or foods.
The best way to investigate any of these symptoms is through a colonoscopy. MacMurray offers a full Bowel Cancer Screening package.


What is the Treatment for Bowel Cancer?

People who are diagnosed with bowel cancer, and receive treatment when it is at an early stage, have a 95 percent chance of surviving five years. After five years they have the same survival rate as someone who has never had bowel cancer. If there is a delay in diagnosis and treatment, and the cancer spreads regionally, the five year survival rate drops to 70 percent, and then plummets to 10 percent where there is distant spread.

 Treatment may include;

  • Surgery (removing the cancer)
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy


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