The government could cut deaths from bowel cancer by 60% by 2025, but only if it steps up prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, claims a leading charity today.
Bowel Cancer UK wants at least an extra 2500 people diagnosed with bowel cancer to be alive for at least five years after their diagnosis by 2025.
Currently only just over half of those diagnosed with the UK’s second biggest cancer killer survive for a further five years, largely because they are diagnosed when their disease is already advanced. And only 9% are diagnosed at the earliest stage of their disease.
The charity’s report, which looks at what progress has been made over the past 25 years on cutting bowel cancer deaths, increasing survival, and enhancing the patient experience, urges the government to revisit its targets in these areas.
It acknowledges that while public attitudes have changed hugely and the screening programme offers the opportunity of earlier diagnosis, half a million people have lost their lives to bowel cancer in the UK during this period, and many thousands more have had their quality of life limited by the disease.
It says that bowel cancer deaths could be cut by 60% from 18 in every 100,000 of the population to 7 in every 100,000 with improvements in diagnosis and treatment.
It urges the government to do more to encourage greater uptake of bowel cancer screening, which is only just over 50% of those eligible. And diagnostic endoscopy capacity needs to be doubled to cope with growing demand as the result of an ageing population, to cut down on vital waiting time.
Furthermore, public understanding of the disease is poor, it says, and calls for more emphasis on prevention through simple changes to diet and lifestyle and for the quality and consistency of information to be improved, and better support for GPs to recognise tell-tale symptoms.
One in four patients don’t understand what their doctor tells them about the disease and one in five claim to have received conflicting information about their condition, says the charity, adding that one in three patients is given no written information at all, it says.
Patients also need better access to the best available treatments, regardless of where they live, and joined up care, it says.
Deborah Alsina, who heads up the charity, commented: “We want to dramatically improve outcomes for people affected by bowel cancer, minimising the disease’s impact and helping people lead longer, healthier and happier lives.
We have a duty to save more lives and the proposals outlined in this report should be the government’s absolute minimum goal.”
Report: '2025 Challenge: Saving and Improving Lives'