Most commonly referred to as bowel cancer in New Zealand, but also known as colorectal cancer or colon cancer, it is a cancer formed from uncontrolled cell growth in the colon or rectum (parts of the large intestine). The analysis shows colon and rectal tumours are genetically the same cancer and often referred to as colorectal cancer or colon cancer.
Risk factors for bowel cancer include heredity, colon polyps, and long-standing Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
Bowel cancer often starts from small, noncancerous polyps that form on the inner walls of the colon or large intestine.
Some of these polyps may grow into malignant cancers over time if they are not treated. It is estimated that polyps will occur within 15-20% of adults.
It has been reported that up to 50% of polyps greater than 2cm are cancerous, but all but the smallest polyps should be removed to ensure they do not turn cancerous.
If they do turn into cancer, these cancer cells can travel into the bloodstream or lymph nodes and other parts of the body typically the liver and the lungs.