Advanced bowel cancer

Advanced bowel cancer, sometimes called colorectal cancer, means that the cancer has spread to other parts of your body from where it started in the large bowel (colon) or back passage (rectum). Your cancer may be advanced when it is first diagnosed. Or the cancer may come back some time after you were first treated.

When cancer comes back after treatment it is called recurrent cancer. The cancer can spread:
• Locally into tissue close to the bowel; or
• To other parts of the body, such as the liver or lungs.

Local cancer spread

Local spread means the cancer has broken through the wall of the bowel and so cancer cells have spread into surrounding tissue in the abdomen or pelvis.

Secondary spread (metastasis)

Cancer that has spread to another part of the body is called secondary cancer or metastatic cancer. The bowel cancer cells have travelled through the lymphatic system or bloodstream to another part of the body. The cells have then settled and started to grow there.
Remember the most important thing is where the cancer started. Having bowel cancer cells in your liver doesn’t mean that you have liver cancer. You have bowel cancer that has spread – it is also called secondary bowel cancer. This is important because your doctor needs to use treatments that work on bowel cancer cells – not treatment for liver cancer.

Coping with advanced bowel cancer

There are other sections about advanced bowel cancer on this website:

Feelings and emotions- advanced bowel cancer

Treatment for advanced bowel cancer

Coping with terminal bowel cancer

Download a copy of the Marie Keating Foundation’s booklet, Coping with Advanced Bowel Cancer.