There are different treatments that may be available once you have been diagnosed with bowel cancer. The main treatment is surgery, with chemotherapy and radiotherapy used quite regularly, either before or after surgery, depending on each patient’s situation. Surgery usually involves removing a section of bowel and then re-joining the two pieces. Sometimes it is not possible to join the pieces back together and the patient may be given a stoma or bag. This means that a small opening is made on the patient’s stomach wall, through which their bowel empties into a bag. Patients can function perfectly normally with a stoma.

The type of surgery you receive will depend on where in the bowel the cancer is found.

  • Right Hemicolectomy:  Cancer from the right side of your colon is removed.
  • High Anterior Resection: Cancer in the sigmoid colon (the part of the large intestine closest to the rectum and anus) is removed.
  • Low Anterior Resection: Cancer in the rectum is removed.
  • Abdoperineal Resection: This involves removing the entire rectum and anus.
  • Subtotal or Total Colectomy: Most or the entire bowel is removed. 

Cancer in the rectum may require a temporary or permanent stoma, an opening created when the healthy part of the bowel is brought out onto the surface of the abdomen. Your stool will be passed through this opening into a bag.

Radiotherapy is used to direct X-ray beams at your cancer in order to damage cancer cells and stop them dividing and growing. Radiotherapy can be given before surgery (neoadjuvant) or after surgery (adjuvant). It is used mainly in the treatment of cancer in the rectum and anus.

Chemotherapy refers to treatment with anti-cancer drugs, which are given to destroy or control cancer cells by damaging them so that they cannot divide and grow. Chemotherapy can be given before surgery (neoadjuvant), alongside radiotherapy, or after surgery (adjuvant).