Just diagnosed

A diagnosis of bowel cancer can bring with it a number of different feelings. Shock, upset, fear, and things are all a ‘bit of a blur.’ There is no right or wrong way to feel. In this section, you will find information on what to expect next after being diagnosed.

Coming to terms with your diagnosis

Numb, confused, frightened, sad, angry … you may have all of these feelings and more if you have just been told you have bowel cancer. Everyone reacts in their own way and sometimes it’s hard to take in the fact that you have cancer at all.

Experiencing all of these feelings is part of a normal (even though it may not seem that way!) process of coming to terms with bowel cancer, and these feelings may come and go, random and powerful.

It helps to talk about how you feel with family and friends, and to take time, let the news sink in.

Bowel cancer explained to patient

Don’t be rushed into making decisions

To make a decision that is good and right, we need facts and information and that is important when you’re deciding a way forward with cancer. It is your body, you are in charge, and don’t allow medical professionals to rush you into making decisions about your treatment and care.

Prior to each appointment, make a list of questions to ask your doctors. Even if you think, ‘I’ll be wasting the specialist’s time with that one’, write it down and ask it anyway.

Cancer brings with it a vocabulary of words and terminologies you may never have heard before and it can take a while to become familiar with this new language. If you receive information you don’t understand, ask your specialist to repeat it (don’t be afraid to ask) until your question is answered to your satisfaction, and always remember you can seek a second opinion from another specialist.

What happens next?

Assessing the extent of the cancer
Further tests will be conducted to find out the extent of the cancer and whether it has spread to other parts of your body. This process is known as staging. Your specialist will choose from a range of investigations including blood tests, X-ray, CT scan, MRI scan, PET scan and ultrasound, and will explain what these tests involve and why you need them.

Everyone diagnosed with bowel cancer age 70 or younger should have their tumour screened for Lynch Syndrome to determine if they carry the genetic mutation. If they do, they and their family members should receive a referral to the Genetics Health Service NZ to discuss screening and surveillance.


What’s the difference between diagnosis and prognosis?
The diagnosis has identified the disease and given it a name. The prognosis predicts the likely or expected development of the disease. It estimates a patient’s likelihood of cure, their functional recovery (being able to return to work, engage in recreation, and any help needed for daily living), and life expectancy based upon the results of studies of groups of people with the same or similar diagnosis. A prognosis is always an estimate because it is difficult to apply group statistics to individuals and no two people are alike in terms of physical, mental, and emotional health. A patient’s prognosis is influenced by a number of factors including the type, size and location of the cancer, and specific characteristics of the patient, such as age and general state of health at the time of diagnosis.