Most bowel cancers start as benign growths on the wall of the bowel. These growths are called polyps and most do not produce symptoms.
Polyps are like small spots or ‘cherries on stalks’. They become more common as we get older and most are not pre-cancerous.
One type of polyp called an adenoma can become cancerous (malignant). If undetected, the cells of the polyp will multiply to form a tumour in the bowel.
If untreated, the tumour can grow into the wall of the bowel or back passage. Once in the wall, cancer cells can travel to other parts of the body through the bloodstream or the lymphatic system. The most common places for bowel cancer cells to spread are the liver and the lungs. The spread of the cells in this way is called metastasis.
Early detection and treatment offers the best chance of cure. 90% of bowel cancers are curable if caught early so it is important to know the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer.