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Bowel Cancer

What is Bowel Cancer?

Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer or colon cancer, is a type of cancer that begins in the colon (large intestine) or rectum. It typically develops from precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) in the lining of the colon or rectum, which can eventually become cancerous over time. 


Bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer worldwide, with a significant impact on morbidity and mortality. It usually develops slowly over several years, and early detection and treatment can improve outcomes and increase the chances of successful treatment.

Risk factors

Risk factors for bowel cancer include:

  1. Age: The risk of bowel cancer increases with age, with the majority of cases diagnosed in individuals over the age of 50. However, it can occur at any age.

  2. Family history: Individuals with a family history of bowel cancer or polyps are at increased risk of developing the disease themselves. Genetic factors and inherited syndromes such as Lynch syndrome and familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) can also increase the risk of bowel cancer.

  3. Personal history of colorectal polyps or cancer: Individuals who have previously had colorectal polyps or cancer are at increased risk of developing bowel cancer in the future.

  4. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): Chronic inflammatory conditions of the colon, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, increase the risk of developing bowel cancer over time.

  5. Unhealthy lifestyle habits: Factors such as a diet high in red and processed meats, low in fruits and vegetables, high alcohol consumption, smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity can increase the risk of bowel cancer.

  6. Certain medical conditions: Conditions such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and insulin resistance are associated with an increased risk of bowel cancer.


Symptoms of bowel cancer include:

  • Changes in bowel habits (diarrhea, constipation, or changes in stool consistency)

  • Blood in the stool or rectal bleeding

  • Abdominal pain or discomfort

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Fatigue or weakness

  • Persistent cramping or bloating

  • Feeling that the bowel does not empty completely after a bowel movement

Treatment options

Treatment for bowel cancer typically involves surgery to remove the cancerous tissue, followed by adjuvant therapies such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or targeted therapy to destroy any remaining cancer cells and reduce the risk of recurrence. The specific treatment approach depends on factors such as the stage of the cancer, the location and size of the tumor, and the overall health and preferences of the individual.


Preventive measures such as regular screening for colorectal cancer, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and managing risk factors can help reduce the risk of developing bowel cancer and improve overall health and well-being. Screening tests such as colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, fecal occult blood tests, and stool DNA tests can help detect bowel cancer early when it is most treatable.

Can exercise help?

Exercise can play a significant role in managing bowel cancer by:


  1. Improving physical fitness: Regular exercise, including aerobic exercise, strength training, and flexibility exercises, helps to improve cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, endurance, and flexibility, enhancing overall physical fitness and functional capacity in individuals with bowel cancer. Improved physical fitness can help individuals tolerate cancer treatments better and recover more quickly from surgery and other interventions.

  2. Enhanc treatment outcomes: Exercise has been shown to enhance the effectiveness of cancer treatments and improve treatment outcomes in individuals with bowel cancer. Exercise can help to reduce treatment-related side effects such as fatigue, nausea, pain, and depression, and may improve adherence to treatment protocols, leading to better treatment outcomes and improved survival rates.

  3. Reduce the risk of recurrence: Regular exercise has been associated with a reduced risk of cancer recurrence and improved long-term survival in individuals with bowel cancer. Exercise may help to suppress tumor growth, reduce inflammation, boost the immune system, and promote overall health and well-being, reducing the risk of cancer recurrence and improving prognosis.

  4. Improve quality of life: Exercise has numerous benefits for quality of life in individuals with bowel cancer, including reduced fatigue, improved mood, enhanced self-esteem, better sleep quality, and increased social support. Engaging in regular physical activity can help individuals cope with the physical and emotional challenges of cancer diagnosis and treatment and improve overall well-being and quality of life.

  5. Promote healthy weight management: Regular exercise helps to maintain a healthy weight or achieve weight loss in individuals with bowel cancer, which is important for reducing the risk of cancer recurrence, improving treatment outcomes, and enhancing overall health and well-being. Maintaining a healthy weight through regular physical activity may also reduce the risk of other chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.

  6. Support gastrointestinal function: Exercise can help to support gastrointestinal function and reduce symptoms such as constipation, bloating, and gas, which are common in individuals with bowel cancer. Physical activity stimulates bowel motility and promotes regularity, improving gastrointestinal health and comfort.

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