Living with secondary bowel cancer

Our Bowel Cancer Voices tell us that being given a diagnosis of secondary bowel cancer – cancer that has spread to other parts of the body – is a very frightening experience. It can take some time to come to terms with what that means for you and your family, and to understand what your options might be – for treatment and for your quality of life.


Considering your options


There are several options for treatment for advanced bowel cancer that may be available to you, depending upon your individual circumstances. These should be explained to you by your specialist team, who will involve you in the decision making about your treatment.



It is very important to discuss with your doctors and nurses the advantages and the disadvantages of what is being proposed, so that your individual needs and wishes can be fully considered. It is also important that you have realistic expectations of what the outcomes are likely to be.


These can be difficult conversations to have, especially in a busy outpatient clinic. It may be helpful to take someone you trust with you for support. It is very common to have trouble remembering everything you are being told at these appointments, so another person can help you to remember questions you wanted to ask, and what the answers were.

Questions to ask your doctor


Do ask your hospital team to explain what they want to achieve with the treatment plan they are recommending. The questions to ask might also include:


  • am I suitable for treatment of my bowel cancer secondaries?
  • how many secondary tumours have been found and where are they?
  • do I have treatment choices? If yes, what are they?
  • are there other treatment options not being offered? Why not?
  • what do we hope the treatment will achieve?


For some people, the intent of treatment is to cure the cancer. For others, the treatment will only be able to control the cancer, extend survival, and provide relief from any symptoms.


For further information you may like to download our booklet ‘Advanced-Bowel-Cancer-Treating-Metastases‘.


Please read our Palliative Care section which explains what happens if your cancer cannot be cured with any more active treatment.