If you have symptoms, you will usually begin by seeing your GP, who will examine you. If they think that your symptoms could be caused by cancer, they will refer you to a specialist doctor. You should be seen at the hospital within 14 days.
Some people are diagnosed after taking a test as part of the NHS Bowel Screening Programme. Bowel screening is a way of finding bowel cancer at an early stage before it causes symptoms.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, men and women aged 60 to 74 are invited to do a faecal occult blood test (FOB test) every two years. In Scotland, the ages range from 50 to 74. They are sent a home test kit, which is used to collect a poo (stool) sample. If you have a family history of bowel cancer, you may need to have bowel screening at an earlier age.
Sometimes people are diagnosed with rectal cancer after going to hospital with a problem, such as bowel obstruction. This is when part of the bowel becomes blocked. It may cause symptoms such as:
- tummy pain
- nausea and vomiting