Improving bowel cancer care

  • Univadis Editorial - Dr Harry Brown
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Last week I wrote about cancer news (see in terms of new research findings. My article gave examples of current trends and discoveries. Promoting current research is incredibly important, as some of these findings may feed through to better patient care in the future. Improvements available now are the result of previous research informing and enhancing clinical practice.

So it was fascinating to read a new article in the Univadis news service this week (, which reported progress in the care of patients with bowel cancer. The data were based on the National Bowel Cancer Audit 2015 report published by the Royal College of Surgeons, and the key results showed an encouraging trend of improvements in outcomes. The article said that “the overall two year survival was 67% in patients who had colorectal cancer diagnosed from 2011 to 2012 and 82% in patients who had major surgery to remove their cancer.” However, not all patients had surgery: about one third of the cohort didn’t receive this form of treatment for a number of reasons.

The Univadis article continued, “The audit also showed that 83% of patients have a stoma after having surgery to remove rectal cancer.” Another interesting fact was the low number of colorectal cancers detected by screening: “only 20% of patients aged 60 to 74 got their diagnosis through screening.”

Although this is disappointing, it isn’t entirely surprising, as persuading people to take part in such a screening campaign isn’t easy. Not only should we keep banging the drum about the benefits of bowel cancer screening but we should look to be introducing better diagnostic techniques. Earlier detection in larger numbers should hopefully lead to better overall outcomes.

I was also interested to read that nearly half of all surgical procedures in this field were conducted through laparoscopic techniques—a big change from the techniques seen just a generation ago, such is the pace of medical progress.

Despite the impressive facts and figures gleaned from this audit there is clearly more to be done. In my opinion, a big priority is to improve uptake rates in bowel cancer screening. We need more publicity to highlight success stories, and we should use traditional and electronic media to emphasise its benefits. Such initiatives cost money, but I’m sure that such a campaign would be cost effective and would improve the quality and length of many people’s lives.

Sometimes we don’t need a high tech solution to improve the outcomes of a condition such as colorectal cancer. Innovative campaigns, backed by extensive publicity and perhaps endorsed by celebrities, could improve the uptake of bowel cancer screening programmes.


By Dr Harry Brown, editor-in-chief, Univadis