After a diagnosis
After finding out you have bowel cancer, you may
Radiation therapy uses x-rays to destroy cancer cel s. It is
feel shocked, upset, anxious or confused. These
used prior to surgery for cancer in the rectum to reduce the
are normal responses. A diagnosis of bowel
cancer size to make surgery easier. It is also used to decrease
cancer affects each person differently. For most
the chance of cancer returning at the site. Timing of treatment
it will be a difficult time, however some people
is dif erent for each individual. Chemotherapy may be used in
manage to continue with their normal daily
addition to radiation therapy.
Diet therapy, or eating a healthy diet including a variety of
You may find it helpful to talk about your treatment options
foods, wil ensure you have what your body needs to cope
with your doctors, family and friends. Ask questions and seek
with treatment and recovery. Be sure to discuss your diet with
as much information as you feel you need. It is up to you as to
your dietician and doctor. If you need a permanent colostomy,
how involved you want to be in making decisions about your
you wil have to make significant changes to your diet. Your
doctor or your stomal therapy nurse can advise you.
Bowel cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer
Exercise therapy can improve your cancer recovery.
in Australia after non-melanoma skin cancer and prostate
Research has shown that regular physical activity is beneficial
cancer, with more than 13,000 people diagnosed each year.
and can reduce side-ef ects such as fatigue. Talk to your
physiotherapist or exercise physiologist and doctor.
How is bowel cancer treated?
You may have a number of dif erent health care professionals
What about my physical and emotional
involved in your treatment and care.
The type of treatment you have wil depend on whether or
• Don’t be afraid to ask for professional and emotional
not the cancer has spread or is at risk of spreading. Although
nearly al treatments have side-ef ects, most can be ef ectively
• Consider joining a cancer support group.
managed. Ask your doctor to explain what side-ef ects to
• Learn to ignore unwanted advice and ‘horror stories’.
expect and how best to manage these.
• Live day-to-day and remember that every day is likely to be
Surgery is the usual treatment for bowel cancer. The cancer
and surrounding tissue are removed to make sure no part
of the cancer is left behind. Usual y the bowel can be joined
Complementary therapies can work alongside medical
together again to restore normal function. If for some reason
treatments and some have been shown to improve quality of
it cannot be rejoined, an artificial opening (colostomy) for
life or reduce pain. There is no evidence that these therapies
body waste (faeces) is made in the wal of the abdomen. A
can cure or prevent cancer. It is important to remember that
temporary colostomy can be reversed in a few weeks. Less
some of these therapies have not been tested for side-ef ects,
than five per cent of people need a permanent colostomy.
may work against other medical treatments and may be
Bowel surgery is a major operation with an average hospital
expensive. Let your doctor know about al complementary
stay of 5 to 10 days fol owed by a recovery period of four
therapies you are thinking of using.
to six weeks. For very early bowel cancers there is usual y
Remember, if you have any concerns or questions,
no need for additional radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
please contact your doctor.
For those with larger cancer or whose cancer has spread
to the lymph nodes, the best results are often achieved by
Where can I get reliable information?
combining surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Cancer Council Helpline 13 11 20
Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer drugs to help destroy
Information and support for you and your family for the cost of
cancer cel s that may have spread to other areas of your
a local cal anywhere in Australia.
body, but cannot be detected. Chemotherapy after surgery
can be an ef ective treatment to reduce the chance of the
Cancer Council Australia website
cancer coming back. It is usual y injected into a vein in the
(with links to state and territory Cancer Councils)
arm, but other methods are available.