Bowel cancer is a general term for cancer that begins in the large bowel. Depending on where the cancer starts, bowel cancer is sometimes called colon or rectal cancer.

Bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed in the UK. Most people diagnosed with it are over the age of 60.

Knowing the symptoms of bowel cancer could save your life. The main symptoms are:

  • Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo
  • A persistent and unexplained change in your bowel habit
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
  • A pain or lump in your tummy

Read about the symptoms of bowel cancer.

See a GP If you have any of the symptoms of bowel cancer for 3 weeks or more. Read about diagnosing bowel cancer.

Bowel cancer screening

To detect cases of bowel cancer sooner, the programme automatically invites men and women between the ages of 60 and 74 who are registered with a GP in England. You will be sent a bowel cancer screening home test kit every 2 years. The national programme is also inviting anyone turning 56 and you will receive an invitation when you become eligible.

If you’re 75 or over, you can ask for a kit every 2 years by phoning the free bowel cancer screening helpline on 0800 707 60 60.

For the screening test, you use a home test kit, called a faecal immunochemical test (FIT), to collect a small sample of poo and send it to a lab. This is checked for tiny amounts of blood.

Blood can be a sign of polyps or bowel cancer. Polyps are growths in the bowel that may turn into cancer over time.

Regular NHS bowel cancer screening reduces the risk of dying from bowel cancer. Read about bowel cancer screening.

Further information for everyone

Further information for people with a learning disability

Evidence shows that eligible people with a learning disability are less likely to take part in bowel cancer screening compared to those without a learning disability. This leaves them at risk of undetected cancer.

We hope to reverse this trend by working with partners and sharing information in accessible formats. These guides play an important role in helping people to understand bowel cancer screening and make a decision.

Further information for healthcare professionals