Information for Consumers - Bowel Cancer (Staging)

This article tells you about bowel cancer and bowel cancer staging.

What is bowel cancer?

Most bowel cancers develop in the large bowel (colon) or rectum. The cancer usually develops from tiny growths called polyps, however, only a small number of polyps become cancerous.

What is bowel cancer staging?

If you have bowel cancer, your doctor will need to see if the cancer has spread (called staging). This helps the doctor plan your treatment. The imaging tests your doctor requests will depend on whether the cancer is in the colon or the rectum.

If you have colon cancer, your doctor may request one or more of the following:

  • Abdominal CT scan
  • Ultrasound of liver
  • Chest x-ray

If you have rectal cancer, your doctor may request one or more of the following:

  • Endoscopic rectal ultrasound
  • Abdominal CT scan
  • Ultrasound of liver
  • Chest x-ray
  • MRI
  • CT

For more information please telephone (02) 9926 5014 or access the following website:

Further information

For more detailed information, please access InsideRadiology at:

This is a resource produced especially for consumers by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists:

A guide to gathering information that you may need for making informed decisions is published by the Consumers' Health Council of Australia at:

If you would like to look at other relevant articles, please access the following:

Or access the Diagnostic Imaging Pathways website at:

Or if you have questions or require any further information please contact your doctor or speak to the staff where you are going to have your procedure.


National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, Australian Government Department of Health:

Bowel Cancer and Digestive Research:

Consumer participation

This information has been reviewed by representatives from the following groups:

  • Aboriginal people
  • People with disabilities
  • Seniors
  • CALD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse)
  • The Health Consumers' Council


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This article is intended as general information only. The Diagnostic Imaging Pathways team and Radiology Across Borders will not accept any liability arising from its use. The information is kept as up-to-date and accurate as possible. Please be warned that it is always subject to change.


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Date reviewed: July 2017

Date of next review: July 2019