Search this site
This is where you can find out about all the amazing things going on in the Online Community. It's where you'll find news about events and awareness months; ways to get involved with Macmillan and up-to-date campaigning news from Macmillan HQ.
On 18 April, we hosted a webchat all about bowel cancer. John Newlands, one of our Information Nurses from the Macmillan Support Line, answered questions on symptoms, testing and treatment.
If you’d like any further information on the subject see our bowel cancer pages, or call the Macmillan Support Line on freephone 0808 808 00 00 (Mon-Fri, 9am-8pm). And, if you haven’t done so already, you can join the bowel cancer group in the Online Community to get support from others who are going through similar experiences.
Many thanks to John for taking part.
I recently found out about a friend who has bowel cancer. I know little about it – how long after diagnosis would someone typically start treatment? I realise each case is probably different.
After a diagnosis of bowel cancer, NHS treatment should start within 31 days of a decision to give treatment. The treatment would depend on the stage of the cancer - that means how far it has spread.
I am being tested at the moment as I have a number of symptoms but I am only 43 so in my mind this is fairly young for this type of cancer?
Under 45 years would be seen as being young to have bowel cancer but it is still very important to get checked out.
What is the youngest age you have seen this type of cancer?
I have nursed people in their 20s with bowel cancer - this is very rare, though. Usually people are much older.
Is that why the screening age is higher? Is there any argument or evidence for screening people at a younger age for bowel cancer?
Good question - the screening ages vary amongst the UK nations. In Scotland, it starts at age 50, and in England currently 60, but this is being extended. Below those ages, screening is available for people at high risk.
I did a bowel cancer test annually (provided by my company) for 10 years, nothing found until I was diagnosed with liver secondaries and then they found the primary in my bowel.
Was that a stool test called an FOB? This is used in the screening programme - it is very accurate but not 100%.
Can you tell us a little about the symptoms of bowel cancer?
Here are some common symptoms:
The tiredness can happen if the cancer has been bleeding, causing a reduction in the number of red blood cells (anaemia).
I have secondaries in my liver so my bowel is being ignored for now but I'm worried about developing other secondaries all the time I have my primary.
If you are being treated with chemo, it will attack cancer cells in the liver, bowel and anywhere else that they may be in the body.
I've been told that when they operate on my bowel they may be able to do keyhole surgery, does this mean I won't have a stoma?
It doesn't mean you will not need a stoma if keyhole surgery is performed - it has more to do with the size and position of the tumour.
My Auntie was diagnosed with initial peritoneal cancer. Is this the same as bowel cancer and does it carry the same prognosis? She now has metastasis in the kidney, liver and lungs.
Peritoneal cancer is not the same as bowel cancer and is managed differently. We have some information about primary peritoneal cancer on our website, which you might find helpful.
We often find that we can help people more by speaking with them directly on the phone. Our helpline is open Monday to Friday 9am until 8pm. The freephone number is 0808 808 00 00 . You can ask to talk to a cancer information nurse specialist who will be happy to provide you with a specific answer to your question.
She now has to have a stoma because her bowel has more or less gone
I think you mean the peritoneal cancer has moved to the bowel, but management after surgery will be different - give us a call and we can discuss it in more detail.
Thank you very much for that, I will give them a call. I feel I need to be as informed as I can be on this, because I am her main carer now.
You can also find lots of information for carers on our website.
Two days ago, I had an endoscopy. It was so, so painful. The doctor said they couldn’t get around all of my intestine and that’s why it hurt. They took some biopsies of the wall and a polyp they found. Should I be worried? Please be honest.
A colonoscopy is the camera exam of the lower bowel. Sometimes there can be polyps which are not cancer, but it is important to get the results back.
They told me it could take up to 3 months to get a result, though.
That is a long time. It's usually a few weeks. You could try the patient advice and liaison team at the hospital to see if this can be speeded up.
My friend has been diagnosed with bowel and secondary liver cancer and is not feeling any discomfort or pain. Is this normal? Treatment has not started yet.
Sometimes people can have a bowel cancer that has spread without any pain. Other symptoms can be weight loss, yellow skin (jaundice) or tiredness
Does or should the speed of treatment depend on the type and stage of the cancer that's found?
Specifically for bowel cancer no - sometimes a cancer that is blocking the bowel needs emergency surgery, sometimes more investigations need to be done before treatment starts.
I have Crohn’s disease and I think I’ve just had a touch of food poisoning - starved all day yesterday, now I have eaten again and cant’ keep out of the bathroom. Is this something I should be worried about?
I'm sorry, I cannot comment on specific symptoms. If you are worried, you should contact your GP.
Just wondering, has anyone found that they have tingling and numbness in their fingers and/or feet because of chemotherapy treatment? Has anyone found anything that helps reduce the numbness?
This tingling after chemo can be due to nerve damage called peripheral neuropathy. We have some information on treatments for peripheral neuropathy on our web site. It often improves in time, usually a few months but can be a longer term problem - see our information on long term effects.
I get wobbly sometimes - tripping over, tripping down steps etc - is this likely to be a side effect of chemo or antibodies?
It could be peripheral neuropathy. Sometimes physiotherapy can help and maybe an occupational therapist.
After cancer removal and stoma is formed can a cancer grow in the bowel that is left dangling attached to the anus?
Any visible tumour, plus a margin of healthy tissue, is removed at time of surgery but if microscopic disease is left behind this can come back in the future. This is called a local reoccurrence.
Is it true that you can't take any vitamin tablets of any sort or manuka honey while you're on chemo treatment or are the doctors just being over-cautious when they say it might interfere with the chemotherapy?
Memorial Sloan Kettering has good information on complementary therapy at http://www.msk.org/cancercare(search for ‘about herbs’).
I am having chemotherapy and radiotherapy for small cell lung cancer. Can the cancer move down to my bowel?
Bowel secondaries are unusual from lung cancer but it can happen.
How long is the first set of chemo sessions? And is this to cure or to manage?
Chemo can be given in many different ways, before surgery to shrink down, after surgery as an extra treatment or where surgery cannot be done as the main treatment, so it really depends what the stage of the cancer is - that's how far it has spread
I have tried to find more info on the 'paliative chemo' that my Auntie is having but can't remember the name. Are there lots of different types ?
Yes there are a lot of different types of chemotherapy, used for different things and with different side effects.
It is apparently a mild one because of her other health issues (severe rheumatoid arthritis). They make it up directly before using it. It is definitely only a palliative one.
This sounds like 5FU as it is effective but has less side effects.
Sorry, none of those are ringing bells.
If you find out you can call us or email and we can tell you about the drug. We also produce factsheets on each drug that we can send you. There are more details about individual drugs on our website.
If the treatment doesn't work and there are lots more mets after her next scan or they haven't shrunk any further, is the prognosis poor or is that not always the case?
The choices would be either changing to a different type of chemo (if she wants to continue) or palliative care to control symptoms. Prognosis is difficult to predict - it would be a good thing to discuss with the specialist, or again you can give us a call.
HELLO MY NAMEIS RONNIE.MY HUBBY OF 38 YEARS HAS HAD A STOME FOR OVER A YEAR ( ILEOSTOMY) HE HAS BEEN TOLD THAT THIS SHOULD BE O.KFOR A RESECTION SOON, FROM JUNE, THEN JULY, NOW SAYS IT COULD BE SEPTEMBER, NOT CHUFFED........CANNOT WAIT TO GET RIDOF THE BAG... HOWEVER HE HAS HAD CHEMO FOR 6 MONTHS, 5 FU....AND THAT ALTHOUGH DID NOT HAVE ALOT OF AFTER EFFECTS OR SIDE EFFETCS AT THE TIME HE IS SO SH9ORT TEMPERED AND IT IS LIKE LIVING WITH A DIFFERENT CHAP.. HE IS ALWAYS BAD TEMPERED AND THIS IS ONLY WITH ME,.......YE-S, I KNOW YOU ARE ONLY MEANT TO HURT THE ONE YOULOVE BUT DOES THIS CQALL FOR HIM TO BE QUITE SO.....AWFUL,SOME OF THE TIME HE IS WONDERFULAND THEN HE REMEMBERS THAT HIS MUMAND GRANDMOTHER (39 0 DIED OF THE SAME DISEASE AND I PPERSONALLY THINK HE IS SCARED STIFF. HE IS ALL THAT IHAVE,NO CHILDREN OR FAMILY AND OUR 2 DOGS BOTH DI3ED THIS YEAR. BLESS YOU ALL OUT THERE TRYING TOHOLD EVERYTHING TOGETHER. IT IS SO BAD AND A LONELY PLACE TO BE. IU AM GOING DOWN TO MAKE MYSEKLF A CUPPA, AND HIOPE THAT SOMEONE IS STILL AWAKE WHEN I COME BACK. I AM A LOVING, WIFE FROM SOMERSET, BUT AM ALSO LOOKING FOR SOMETHING TO DO AT THESE AWFUL HOURS, WHEN I KNOW THAT HE IS WHACKED OUT AND IT TAKESALL HIS STRENGTHN TO GET HIMSELF TO THE LOO AND THEN I THE MORNING HE WIULL GO OFF TO HIS WORK AND THEY ALL THINK THAT EVERYTHING IS F I NE . BECAUSE HE DOES NOT HAVE TO .... PLEASE...... LOVE TOYOU ALL. I MAY NOT SEE ANYONE TONIGHT AS IT IW S9O LATE, IF NOT I WIULL DEFINANTELY COMEBACK TOMOROOW, HELLO, TO THISA WEB SITE, QA NEW THING FOR ME TO TRY......RONNIE. X
Hello Dolly232. I have just read your comments and feel you may benefit from a support group for families. Personally, I have (to date) had my bowel cancer remove and have been clear for the past 3 years. My husband of 33 years has found it very hard to understand everything I have been going through since my diagnosis and felt powerless to help me at times because he is a "Mr Fix It" person. I found it very useful to write down my feelings for him to read. There were many pages but it helped our relationship immensely for him to understand all the emotional and physical trials I was going through. He also spent time talking through with me what his problems were and thanked me so much for being so honest. I hope you find a way within your relationship to communicate with your husband as both of your lives are deserving of happiness.
I am new to all this so not sure if I am putting this in the right place?. My sister was diagnosed with Dukes A colorectal cancer last year but has subsequently been diagnosed with secondary disease in the liver. After undergoing surgery to remove 70 percent of her liver, it was discovered during the operation that she had what was believed to be peritoneal disease.=, which lead to the surgeon only removing the tumors in the liver, leaving margins. A single biopsy of the peritoneal disease was taken, which I am lead to believe is standard.
On returning to the hospital, we were told that the results of the biopsy of the peritoneum showed that it was foreign body granuloma? The surgeon said this was very rare. He is now planning to operate again to remove the previously planned 70 percent of her liver, but if frozen biopsies of the peritoneal disease come back as malignant, they will do no more for her, only chemo.
Has anyone else got any experience of this?
If you have any questions about our organisation our Macmillan team would love to hear from you
You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr or YouTube.
© Macmillan Cancer Support 2010
what are these?