Bowel cancer 

Bowel cancer affects the colon and rectal areas of the large intestine in the body. Bowel cancer is also often referred to as colorectal cancer, as it is usually the colon or rectum where cancer cells have occurred, and it is these two areas of the body that make up the bowel’s large intestine.


The bowel’s function is to absorb and process food that enters the body and eliminate the waste through the anus via the rectum. 



Rutherford Treatment Options

  • Proton Beam Therapy Available
  • Radiotherapy Available
  • Chemotherapy Available
  • Immunotherapy Available

Types of bowel cancer

Cancer cells that occur within the bowel, often develop from non-cancerous growths called polyps, but it’s important to remember that, not all polyps develop cancer cells. Sometimes cancer cells that originate in the bowel spread to other areas of the digestive system or parts of the body. The most common areas affected, when cancer cells spread from the bowel, are the liver and lungs.

  • Small bowel - the smallest part of the digestive system, it is made up of three sections. Its function is to breakdown food and absorbs minerals and nutrients into the body
  • Colon – this makes up the largest part of your bowel, and it absorbs water into the body
  • Rectal – this is located between the lower part of your colon and the anus. It holds waste after the rest of the digestive system has processed it
  • Anal – the end part of your bowel where waste is expelled from the body


Symptoms caused by bowel cancer can depend on where in the digestive system it is situated and the rate at which it is growing. Some people may have symptoms, whereas others may not experience any. Early diagnosis will make treating bowel cancer easier, so if you have any of the following symptoms, it is important to see your GP if symptoms persist over several weeks. 

Here are some common symptoms:

  • A change in bowel habits that can’t be explained – which could cause persistent constipation or diarrhoea 
  • Blood in stool, or bleeding from the back passage (rectum) – it may vary in colour
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Pain in your abdomen or back passage (due to a blockage/obstruction)
  • Feeling that you haven’t emptied your bowel properly after you go to the toilet
  • Unexplained tiredness, dizziness or breathlessness

If you’d like to speak to us about any of the treatments we offer
please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Call us on 0800 210 0402 or

Bowel cancer diagnosis

If your GP thinks you’re experiencing symptoms as a result of bowel cancer, they will arrange for you to have a physical examination and may send you to a for further diagnostics scans and tests. The earlier a diagnosis is made, the better the outcome of treatment will be. Several tests and examinations can help diagnose bowel cancer. Some may be carried out with your GP; then you may be referred to a hospital or specialist for further scans or test.


Ways bowel cancer can be diagnosed:

  • A physical examination carried out by a GP
  • A digital rectal examination carried out by a GP
  • Scans such as x-ray, CT, PET, MRI or Ultrasound
  • Blood tests
  • Stool sample test
  • A biopsy - taking and testing a tissue sample from the body
  • Endoscopy, colonoscopy or virtual colonoscopy 
MRI Diagnosis

Treating bowel cancer with proton beam therapy

Treatment for bowel cancer will often involve different treatment options, such as surgery, chemotherapy or radiotherapy. A consultant oncologist at the Rutherford will be able to discuss with you if your case of bowel cancer will benefit from proton beam therapy. Proton beam therapy can be used to treat bowel cancer, usually before or after surgery, or following chemotherapy. The using of proton beam therapy will aim to shrink a tumour before removal, or after surgery, to kill any remaining local cancer cells that may have been left behind.


The benefits of treating bowel cancer with proton beam therapy

As bowel cancer can be situated near other parts of the body and vital organs, proton beam therapy can be an effective treatment choice, as it will deliver minimal radiation dose to healthy tissues surrounding the tumour or cancer cells that should be avoided, while precisely targeting the cancer. Sensitive areas near the bowel may include: 

  • Liver
  • Pancreas

*Anal, rectal and colon cancers may benefit from proton beam therapy treatment. However, in some instances, it may not be suitable and will depend on the location and stage of the cancer.

An overview of how proton beam therapy works

Proton beam therapy is highly accurate in targeting a treatment area. It can be used to treat hard-to-reach tumours, while lowering radiation exposure to surrounding healthy tissue and vital organs.

Watch the video

Other treatment options for bowel cancer

There are other treatment options that can be used to treat bowel cancer, either before, after or alongside proton beam therapy. Please see other treatment options available at the Rutherford Cancer Centres below:







Further information & support

Being diagnosed with bowel cancer and deciding on the best treatment can be daunting, for full details on bowel cancer treatment options or to discuss a diagnosis, please contact our enquiries team. Our enquiries team will endeavour to help you assess your treatment options and advise which consultants could be best placed on planning your treatment pathway.

Macmillan Cancer Support offers a wide range of information and support, as well as help with your practical, emotional, and financial needs. All telephone helplines are free and confidential, and interpreting services are also available.

Freephone: 0808 808 00 00

(Monday to Friday, 9.00am – 8.00pm)


Get in Touch

If you'd like to speak to us about any of the treatments we offer please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Call us on 0800 210 0402 or

Our Trusted Healthcare Partners