Treatment of bowel cancer

The main treatments for bowel cancer are:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Biological therapy
  • Radiotherapy

Surgery

Surgery is the most common treatment for bowel cancer. Surgery aims to remove the part of the bowel containing the tumour. There are different types of surgery like open surgery or keyhole surgery.

For more information, please see Understanding cancer of the colon and rectum (bowel) booklet or speak to a specialist nurse on our helpline.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy uses drugs to cure or control your cancer. It can be used alone to treat bowel cancer. It can also be given before surgery (neo-adjuvant therapy) or after surgery (adjuvant therapy) .

Chemotherapy uses drugs to cure or control your cancer. It can be used alone to treat bowel cancer. It can also be given before surgery (neo-adjuvant therapy) or after surgery (adjuvant therapy).

Some common chemotherapy drugs used in bowel cancer are:

  • 5-FU
  • Oxaliplatin
  • Irinotecan (CPT-11)
  • Capecitabine (Xeloda)
  • Leucovorin (folinic acid)

Please see our Understanding Chemotherapy booklet for more information.

Biological therapy

Biological therapies use substances that occur naturally in the body to destroy cancer cells. The main types of biological therapies used in bowel cancer are Monoclonal antibodies, cancer growth inhibitors and Angiogenesis inhibitors.

For more information on biological therapies, please see our treatment section.

Some common drugs used are:

  • Cetuximab
  • Avastin
  • Vectibix 

For more information on biological therapies, please see our treatment section

Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells in your bowel. Radiotherapy is mainly used in cancer of the rectum. It can be given before surgery (neo-adjuvant therapy) and also after surgery (adjuvant therapy).

Please see our Understanding Radiotherapy booklet for more information.

How is advanced bowel cancer treated ?

Advanced bowel cancer is when the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Advanced bowel cancer is also called metastatic colorectal cancer (MCRC.) It may be possible to keep the cancer under control by surgery, chemotherapy or biological therapy. It is unlikely the cancer will be cured. Treatment can help to shrink the cancer to improve your symptoms. This is called palliative treatment.

Learn more about treatments

Continue to Living with bowel cancer

Date Last Revised: 
Friday, July 10, 2015