Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) describes disorders that involve chronic inflammation of the digestive tract.

Chronic inflammation can cause continuous turnover of cells in the intestinal lining.


As cells ‘turnover’, old cells are replaced with new cells.

Each time cells turnover, the risk of irregularities that may lead to bowel cancer increases.

As a result, people living with IBD are considered to be at a higher risk of developing bowel cancer approximately 8 to 10 years after they first start experiencing inflammation of the gut.

Symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease vary, depending on the severity of the inflammation and where it is located. 

Ulcerative colitis causes long-lasting inflammation and sores (ulcers) in the inner lining of the large intestine and rectum. 

Crohn's disease is characterised by inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract, which frequently spreads to affected tissues. 


Signs and symptoms shared by ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease include:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Fever and fatigue
  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Blood in the stool
  • Reduce appetite
  • Unintended weight loss


Symptoms can be severe or mild, and active illness is often followed by periods of remission. 

Although IBD isn't considered fatal, it is considered a serious disease.

If you experience any of the above symptoms for two weeks or more, speak with your GP immediately.

Symptoms can also mirror bowel cancer, so it is essential to find out what the cause of the symptoms may be.


Fortunately, most people living with IBD will never develop bowel cancer; if they do, it is 98% treatable when detected early.

If you are living with IBD, it is essential to be bowel cancer aware, speak with your GP about a screening and surveillance program to help you manage your risk, and take action to reduce your risk where possible.

  • Maintain open and regular contact with your GP and your specialist;
  • Keep a list of symptoms of concerns and discuss them with your GP or specialist when you meet;
  • Remember to take your Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis medications as directed, to manage bowel inflammation and keep IBD well-controlled;
  • If a family member develops bowel cancer, make an appointment to discuss this with your specialist, as it may affect the frequency of your screening. 
  • Exercise and eat a healthy diet 


To find out more about Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) visit our webpage.

If you have a specific question, contact our Bowel Care Nurses during business hours 1800 555 494