Glossary of Colorectal Terms




The part of the body between the chest and hips, which contains the stomach, liver, bowel, bladder and kidneys.

abdominoperineal (AP) resection

An operation for rectal cancer, which involves removing the rectum and anus and creating a permanent colostomy.

adjuvant therapy

A treatment given with or shortly after another treatment to enhance its effectiveness.

advanced cancer

Cancer that has spread into the surrounding tissues or away from the original site (metastasised).


Deficiency in the number or quality of red blood cells. anal sphincter
See sphincter.

anterior resection

A surgical procedure to remove cancer in the rectum.


The opening at the end of the bowel where solid waste matter normally leaves the body.


See stoma bag.

ascending colon

The right side of the bowel.



barium enema

An examination of the bowel area using a white contrast liquid. It is inserted into the rectum and x-rays are taken.


Not cancerous or malignant.


The removal of a small sample of tissue from the body, for examination under a microscope, to help diagnose a disease.


In this booklet, the term bowel refers to the large bowel, which is also known as the colon.

bowel movement

Defecation. Evacuating waste matter from the bowels.

bowel obstruction

When the bowel is blocked so that waste matter is unable to pass through easily.

bowel preparation

The process of cleaning out the bowel (removing stools) before a test or scan to allow the doctor to see the bowel more clearly.




The pouch at the beginning of the large bowel that receives waste from the small bowel.

carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA)

A protein that may be in the blood of a person with bowel cancer.


A hollow, flexible tube through which fluids can be passed into the body or drained from it.


The use of cytotoxic drugs to treat cancer by killing cancer cells or slowing their growth.


A surgical procedure in which cancerous areas of the colon are cut out and the healthy parts are sewn back together. Types of colectomies are named depending on the part of the colon removed. They include: right and left hemicolectomies, and transverse, sigmoid, subtotal and total colectomies.


The main working area of the large bowel, where water is removed from solid waste. Its four parts are the ascending colon, transverse colon, descending colon and sigmoid colon.

colonic J-pouch

An internal pouch surgically created using the lining of the large bowel. It may be formed during an ultra-low anterior resection.


An examination of the large bowel with a camera on a flexible tube (endoscope), which is passed through the anus.


An operation in which the colon is connected through an opening in the abdomen (a stoma) to the surface of the skin.

Crohn’s disease

A benign type of inflammatory bowel disease that may increase a person’s risk of developing bowel cancer.

CT scan

A computerised tomography scan. This scan uses x-rays to build a picture of the inside of the body.



descending colon

The left side of the colon. digital rectal examination When a doctor inserts a gloved finger into the rectum to feel for any abnormalities.



endorectal ultrasound

A soundwave-generating device called a probe is inserted into the rectum, and a picture of the
rectum appears on a screen.


A flexible tube used to examine the bowel during a colonoscopy.


A liquid solution that washes out the bowel.



faecal occult blood test (FOBT)

A test that checks stools for microscopic traces of blood. faeces
See stools.

familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)

A benign condition that causes polyps to form in the large bowel. The polyps will become cancerous if untreated.


The ability to conceive a child.


Wind or gas.



gastrointestinal (GI) tract

The passage from the mouth to 76 Cancer Councilthe anus that allows a person to digest food and eliminate waste. The lower GI tract includes the colon and rectum.




The accidental or involuntary loss of urine or faeces.

inflammatory bowel disease

A benign condition that causes inflammation of the bowel.



large bowel

Part of the lower GI tract. The large bowel stores waste until it is ready to be passed out of the body as a bowel movement. Its four main parts are the caecum, colon, rectum and anus.

local excision

A type of surgery for colon cancer. The surgeon inserts a tube (endoscope) through the rectum and into the colon, to cut out the cancer without cutting through the abdominal wall.

lymph nodes

Also called lymph glands. Small, bean-shaped structures that form part of the lymphatic system. They collect and destroy bacteria and viruses.

Lynch syndrome

A disease that increases the risk of developing bowel cancer. Previously called hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC).






When a woman stops having periods (menstruating) and can’t become pregnant anymore.


A cancer that has spread from another part of the body. Also known as secondary cancer.

minimally invasive surgery

A surgical technique that involves several small cuts instead of one large cut on the abdomen. Also called laparoscopic or keyhole surgery.

MRI scan

A magnetic resonance imaging scan. It uses magnetism and radio waves to take cross-sectional pictures of the body.




See stoma.



palliative treatment

Medical treatment for people with cancer to help them manage pain and other physical and emotional symptoms.


A projecting growth from a surface in the body, such as the large bowel. Most polyps are benign, but they can become malignant.

primary cancer

The original cancer. Cells from the primary cancer may break away and be carried to other parts of the body, where secondary cancers may form.


The surgical removal of the entire colon and rectum.


The expected outcome of a person’s disease.




The use of radiation, usually x-rays or gamma rays, to kill cancer cells or injure them so they cannot grow and multiply.


The last 15–20cm of the large bowel, which stores stools until a bowel movement occurs.

recurrent cancer

Cancer that has returned after treatment of the primary cancer. A recurrence may be local (in the same place as the primary) or distant (in another part of the body).


The return of a disease after a period of improvement.


When the symptoms of the cancer reduce or disappear. A partial remission is when there has been a significant improvement in the cancer. A complete remission is when there is no evidence of active cancer.




Testing members of the general public for signs of a disease.

sigmoid colon

The section of the colon after the descending colon and before the rectum and anus.


The rigid or flexible tube used during a sigmoidoscopy.


An examination of the rectum and lower colon. In this procedure, a doctor inserts a sigmoidoscope into the anus.

small bowel

The middle part of the GI tract, which takes food from the stomach and absorbs nutrients.


Strong muscles that form a valve. The anal sphincter muscles relax when a bowel movement occurs.


The process of determining if the cancer is early or advanced.


A tube placed into a blocked organ to create a passage for substances to pass through.

stoma (ostomy)

A surgically created opening to the outside of the body.

stoma bag

A pouch that collects waste from a colostomy or ileostomy. Also called an appliance.

stools (faeces)

Waste matter that normally leaves the body through the anus.



transverse colon

The section of the colon between the ascending and descending colon.



ulcerative colitis

A benign bowel disease that may increase a person’s risk of developing bowel cancer.


A non-invasive scan that uses soundwaves to create pictures.



virtual colonoscopy

A medical imaging procedure that uses a CT or MRI scanner to create and display images.

Covid19: Please read this important information regarding how our practice is operating during this time

Read more