National Bowel Cancer Screening Program's Information Booklet

About your bowel

Page last updated: 20 September 2019 (this page is generated automatically and reflects updates to other content within the website)

Your bowel is part of your food digestive system. It connects your stomach to your anus, where waste materials (called a bowel motion or faeces) are passed out of the body. The function of the bowel is to finish digesting food by absorbing water and nutrients.

Your bowel has three parts:

  • the small bowel – which mainly absorbs nutrients from broken-down food
  • the colon – which mainly absorbs water
  • the rectum – which stores waste material until it is passed from the body through the anus.
The colon and rectum together are known as the large bowel. Bowel cancer usually affects the large bowel. Cancer of the large bowel is also known as colorectal cancer. Cancer of the small bowel is rare.

Human body Image showing Colon, Small Bowel, Rectum and Anus

Courtesy The Cancer Council Victoria.