What Are The Symptoms Of Bowel Cancer – And How Do You Treat It?

BBC Radio 1 DJ Adele Roberts has shared her bowel cancer diagnosis.

BBC Radio 1 DJ Adele Roberts has announced she has been diagnosed with bowel cancer.

The 42-year-old early breakfast show presenter shared the news on social media, saying she hoped her post would “reach anyone who might benefit from seeing it or reading it”.

“For a while now I’ve been struggling with my digestion. Thanks to a conversation I had with my Dad a few years back I went to my GP for a check up,” she said.

“I’ll be honest, I was embarrassed but I also knew that it could be something serious. So I went just in case. I didn’t think anything of it at first and just assumed it might be food sensitivity. After a few phone calls I was sent for some examinations and checks. I was then diagnosed with bowel cancer.”

She added that “so far the outlook is positive” and revealed she’ll be having further treatment to have a tumour removed this week.

“The sooner you’re able to see your GP or talk to someone the sooner you can get help,” she said. “If I hadn’t I might not be so lucky. As I’ve learned over the last few weeks, there’s no ‘normal’ with cancer. Sadly it can affect anyone, at any age, anytime. It doesn’t discriminate. Early detection can save your life.”

What is bowel cancer?

Bowel cancer is commonly used to describe cancer in the bowel, however depending on where the cancer starts, it can be called other things – such as colon or rectal cancer.

It usually starts as a small polyp in the lining of the bowel. If spotted early and removed, the cancer can’t develop. However, if a polyp goes undetected then it eventually grows and turns cancerous.

Bowel cancer is the UK’s fourth most common cancer and second biggest cancer killer with more than 16,000 people dying from the disease every year.

Yet awareness is limited. A poll of 4,000 UK adults commissioned by Bowel Cancer UK found more than a third (35%) of people couldn’t name any symptoms of the disease, with men less likely than women to recognise the signs.

Risk factors

There are a number of possible factors which can increase a person’s risk of bowel cancer, these include: old age, a diet high in red or processed meats and low in fibre, being overweight or obese, not exercising enough, drinking alcohol and smoking, or having a family history of the disease.


While some people don’t have any symptoms, others might experience:

  • Changes in bowel habits – for example, going to the toilet more often or a change in the consistency and colour of your stools.
  • A lump in your abdomen which doesn’t go away.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Pain in the abdomen.
  • Red or dark-coloured blood in your faeces.

Unfortunately, some of these symptoms can be confused with other health problems – piles, for example, or eating something that doesn’t agree with you. If you experience any of the above, speak to your GP.


Initially a doctor will examine your stomach to check for any lumps in your abdomen. They will also perform a digital rectal examination (DRE) which helps them identify whether there are any lumps in the back passage. Overall, the tests should take less than a minute.

“Further hospital tests include using medical instruments to check inside the colon or bowel,” said Dr Nitin Shori, NHS GP and medical director of the Pharmacy2U Online Doctor service.


Surgery is the most common treatment for bowel cancer. According to Dr Shori, if the cancer is caught quickly enough, it can be possible to remove a small part of the colon. Patients often also require chemotherapy or radiotherapy, he said.

If the cancer is detected early, treatment can cure bowel cancer and prevent it from coming back. Unfortunately, a complete cure isn’t always possible and there’s sometimes a risk that the cancer could recur at a later stage.