Video. It's one of our biggest cancer killers yet it's treatable, even curable, if caught early. That's why the charity Bowel Cancer UK is campaigning for GPs to be able to get patients tested sooner.
The current bowel screening programme offers tests, every two years, to men and women aged 60 to 74. The Department of Heath has pledged £60 million pounds over four years, to 2015, to further develop the screening programme.
Six centres have been been piloting the work, one of those at the Royal Surrey County Hospital NHS Trust.
So is enough being done to detect the signs early? Elodie Harper met one woman who says that, although it may be too late for her, others shouldn't have to suffer the same fate.
A man from Portsmouth is one of the first person in the country to undergo a new form of medical treatment to shrink a bowel tumour.
Alan Bennett, 68, was part of a national chemoradiotherapy trial at the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth.
The new treatment reduces the size of the cancer, so it can be cut out without removing the rectum. Mr Bennett had to take tablets every day, and had radiotherapy five days a week for five weeks.
His tumour had shrunk enough for him to have keyhole surgery last October, followed by a week in hospital to recover.
Letting the tumour shrink before removing it made the process easier for the surgeon, and ultimately me in the recovery process.
"Three months after the operation I started a course of intravenous chemotherapy to kill off any cancer that may have remained in my body. This involves eight sessions and I'm currently on my fifth. I have one every three weeks, which involves me having medicine pumped into my arm for two-and-a-half hours. Alongside this I also take eight pills a day."
"I'm a positive person and I'm trying to get on with my life. I have five young grandchildren, a wife of over 40 years and a small property business to run, so I have lots to keep me busy.
My obvious fear is that the cancer has spread, which I won't find out for another two months when I go for an MRI scan. But if it has then I will fight it once more and continue to fight it until it's gone."
– Alan Bennett, Chemoradiotherapy patient
"Dealing with bowel cancer has its own challenges but one good thing is that if it is diagnosed at an earlier stage the treatment & outcomes are so good that one can consider it cured after the treatment.
"Some rectal tumours are located so close to the back passage that the only option for patients is an operation to remove the back passage completely, leaving the patient with a permanent stoma (colostomy bag).
"With advances in chemoradiotherapy we are now able to offer this treatment to a wider group of patients.
The daughter of a woman who died from bowel cancer says her mother begged doctors to take her health concerns seriously. Madelene Pratt Hooson had repeatedly visited her GP because she knew something wasn't right.
A month after she was finally diagnosed - cancer claimed her life at just 66.
Her daughter Laura says her mother would not have suffered as she did - IF doctors had diagnosed her earlier. James Crichton-Smith reports