What you need to know

  • NSW has some of the best treatment outcomes in the world for bowel cancer. It is important to have treatment once your bowel cancer has been diagnosed.
  • It is recommended that you see a colorectal or general surgeon who is a member of a multidisciplinary team. You can ask your GP to refer you to one.

What is bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer is cancer that occurs in any part of the large intestine. This can include the colon or rectum. Bowel cancer starts when cells in the large intestine become abnormal. These cells divide and grow to form a cancer.

A picture showing the position of the bowel in the human body

Who do I see for diagnosis and treatment?

If your GP suspects you have bowel cancer, they will refer you to a colorectal or general surgeon.

The specialist should:

  • have experience treating bowel cancer
  • be an active member of a multidisciplinary team

All the specialists listed on Canrefer are members of a multidisciplinary team.

Why are multidisciplinary teams important?

A multidisciplinary team is a team of doctors, nurses and other health professionals. Team members meet regularly to discuss their patients. They plan treatment for new cancer patients and review treatment for existing patients.

Multidisciplinary teams are important. Team members work together to decide the best treatments for patients.

You can ask your GP to refer you to a specialist who is part of a multidisciplinary team. Talk to your GP about this.

All specialists on Canrefer are members of a multidisciplinary team.

What tests do I need?

You may have some of the tests listed below to diagnose bowel cancer. The most common tests are:

  • Physical examination including digital rectal examination
  • Faecal occult blood test (FOBT)
  • Colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy
  • Blood tests
  • Imaging - CT scan, MRI scan and/or PET scan

What treatment will I have?

Treatment for bowel cancer may include one or all types of these cancer treatments:

  • surgery
  • chemotherapy
  • targeted therapy
  • radiotherapy

Where will I have treatment?

If treatment for your bowel cancer is specialised and complex you may need to travel to have part of your treatment. Your Local Health District will have an arrangement in place for this.

You may be able to have parts of your treatment closer to home. Please discuss this with your treating specialist.

Travel assistance for rural patients

If you live in a rural area and need help to travel for your treatment visit NSW Government IPTAAS for more information.

How common is bowel cancer in NSW?

Bowel cancer was diagnosed in:

  • 5196
    People in NSW in 2012
  • 5154
    People in NSW in 2011
  • 5141
    People in NSW in 2010

Data Source: Annual NSW cancer incidence and mortality dataset, 2012 (sourced from the NSW Cancer Registry)

Cancer information and support

Speak to a specialist health professional about anything to do with cancer.

Phone 13 11 20.

Cancer Council NSW
Questions for your specialist

Find out some key questions to ask your specialist at your first appointment.

Questions you can ask
Booklet about bowel cancer

Understanding Bowel Cancer is a booklet for people with cancer, their families and friends. 

Cancer Council NSW
Fact sheet on anal cancer

Understanding Anal Cancer is a fact sheet for people with cancer, their families and friends. 

Cancer Council NSW