Bowel Cancer

What is Bowel Cancer?
Bowel cancer is the generic term given where the cancer starts in the large bowel and is also known as colorectal cancer. You can get cancer in the small bowel but this is rare. It is the second most common cause of cancer death in the UK and is the fourth most common cancer.

Over 41,000 people a year are diagnosed with bowel cancer, and approximately 16,200 people die each year. In recent years, the number of deaths from bowel cancer has reduced, and it is in hope that this figure will continue to fall. Evidence and research has shown that with early diagnosis and treatment it is more likely that a patient will survive, especially if caught at Stage 1. Figures show that people will survive more than 5 years following diagnosis.

Unfortunately it can affect all ages but the risk of bowel cancer will increase as you get older. Other people at risk of developing bowel cancer are smokers, people who are obese, people who are alcohol dependant or drink excessively, people with digestive disorders such as ulcerative colitis, and bowel cancer can sometimes start from polyps found in the bowel or rectum.

There are red flag symptoms which you can look out for if you are concerned that you may be ill or have bowel cancer. Your doctor will be medically trained to identify when a patient should be referred.

Red flag symptoms can include:

  • blood in your stool/bleeding from your bottom
  • change in bowel habit which has lasted longer than 3 weeks
  • unexplained weight loss
  • pain or lump in your stomach
  • extreme tiredness for unexplained reasons

If you have these symptoms it does not mean you have bowel cancer, but you should speak to your GP.

Delay in diagnosis often occurs due to a failure of your GP referring you to hospital for further investigation. The NICE Guidelines have prepared a paper titled Suspected Cancer: recognition and referral. Your GP should make an urgent referral within 2 weeks if you present any of the above symptoms. Read more on Cancer - Failure to Diagnose

In order for the doctors to understand how to treat a patient and to determine whether the bowel cancer is treatable it will need to be diagnosed, which is usually undertaken through biopsies:

TNM System
There is a system that is used to diagnose at what extent the cancer may have spread. The TNM represents the following: 

  • T (tumour) – how far has the tumour grown through the bowel wall 
  • N (nodes) - whether the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes
  • M (metastases) - whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body 


  • Grade 1-the cancer cells look similar to normal cells (well differentiated)  
  • Grade 2–the cancer cells look more abnormal (moderately differentiated)
  • Grade 3–the cancer cells look very abnormal  

The earlier the diagnosis the better the outcome and more responsive the bowel cancer will be to treatment.

Sadly only 9% of patients were diagnosed early last year. In order to improve this figure, it is important that we all understand the classic symptoms of bowel cancer and seek guidance from our GP as soon as possible. It is better to visit your GP as soon as possible if you are concerned you or a loved one has any of the above symptoms, even if it is only one symptom. Let’s help to beat cancer and raise awareness amongst the community.

At NewLaw our medical negligence solicitors care about your situation and understand the delicate nature of issues surrounding diagnosis such as bowel cancer. 

How can claiming for bowel cancer compensation help me?
During the compensation process a medical expert will look at your case to determine whether or not the doctor who treated you provided negligent care, which will give you piece of mind about the treatment you received.

Why choose NewLaw solicitors?
If we can prove that there was a failure to refer or a delay in diagnosis and that your prognosis is worse as a result of a failure to refer and/or delay in diagnosis, then we can look to obtain damages for the loss that you have suffered. 

Your life expectancy may have been altered as a result of the delay and you may be concerned about the loved ones you will leave behind. We can help to ensure that they are financially provided for in the event you may pass away. We understand that receiving bad news can place strain and worry on you and our specialist team, such as our welfare managers are here to help make that process easier for you.

We can pursue interim payments on your behalf to ease the financial burden so that you have one less thing to worry about.

What can you do?
If you or a family member are concerned about whether a cancer diagnosis should have been made earlier, contact one of our experienced solicitors from our medical negligence team on 0333 003 1909

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