The colon, or large bowel, is the last part of the digestive tract. Its principle role is to reabsorb liquid while the waste from digested products are moved into the lower part of the large bowel, the rectum, prior to being evacuated. For good bowel health we all need a healthy balanced diet. There are a number of common bowel disorders that can impact on the colon and cause symptoms. There are a limited number of symptoms that the bowel can display (abdominal pain, bloating, change in bowel pattern with constipation or diarrhoea, bleeding) so a detailed history of symptoms is important prior to deciding what investigations are required. The best investigation is to directly examine the large bowel with either a colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy but depending on the symptom pattern there are non-invasive investigations that are sometimes used. There are a number of common conditions that can affect the colon ranging from structural problems such as strictures and diverticulum (pockets), inflammatory conditions such as Crohn's or colitis, pre-cancerous growths (polyps) and colon (bowel) cancer. The colon often causes symptoms even in the absence of these conditions (irritable bowel syndrome).Details of colonic conditions can be found in our conditions treated pages.

Bowel cancer

Bowel cancer (also known as colon cancer) is the 4th most common cancer in the UK, accounting for 11% of all new cancer cases.

Change in bowel habit

This refers to any difference from your regular routine in how often you open your bowels, or consistency and colour of your motions.


Constipation can mean having a reduction in frequency or to the passage of hard stools.


Bowel activity is variable and can be significantly influenced by diet and hydration.

Rectal bleeding

This refers to any blood (fresh or altered) coming from the lower gastrointestinal tract.

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