Beating bowel cancer together

Treating advanced bowel cancer

Every bowel cancer patient is different and not all treatments will be suitable for every patient. It is important that you understand and are happy with the treatment suggested for you and any possible side effects.

Working out what treatment is best for you depends on lots of factors.

These can include:

  • how big the tumour is
  • how many tumours there are
  • how healthy the rest of the affected organ is
  • where the cancer is
  • whether your bowel cancer has changes (mutations) in certain groups of genes
  • your general health and fitness
  • which treatments you have already had
  • how you are responding to other treatments, such as chemotherapy
  • the side effects of treatments

Your doctor or clinical nurse specialist will talk you through the benefits and possible risks and answer any questions you may have. Once you are fully informed, your healthcare team will help you make a decision on which treatment is best for you.

Aims of treatment for advanced bowel cancer

Treatment for advanced bowel cancer can include:

Some treatments are specific to the part of the body that the cancer has spread to.

The type of treatment you have will depend on the aim of the treatment. The aim could be:

  • to remove the tumour to try and be clear of bowel cancer
  • to shrink the tumour. In some cases, it might be possible to remove the tumour at a later stage
  • to keep the cancer under control. This is a type of palliative care that aims to prolong and improve quality of life and to help you remain active for as long as possible. You may have  palliative care for several years. It can also be referred to as supportive care. Some patients have such good responses that the cancer can be removed
  • to help manage the symptoms of bowel cancer, reduce the side effects of treatment and to improve your quality of life. This is a type of palliative care that is sometimes called end of life care. The change to end of life care is gradual and your healthcare team will support you in deciding how to continue your treatment.

Treatment plans can be complicated and can change. Between treatments it can be useful to see how you are feeling, what has been achieved and to think about the next steps. Speak to your healthcare team if you have any questions or concerns about your treatment, symptoms or side effects.

Updated November 2020

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