Oncology Central

Early diagnosis of bowel cancer – report highlights the importance of national screening

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Data published by Cancer Research UK and Public Health England’s National Cancer Intelligence Network have reported, for the first time, the stages at which bowel cancer is detected through different healthcare routes in England.

The findings, which reveal that the cancer is more likely to be diagnosed at the earliest stage through national screening, are important for identifying where the NHS should target resources.

In the report, over one third (37 %) of diagnoses from bowel screening methods were identified at stage I, while fewer than 8 % were diagnosed as stage IV.

Comparatively, over 22% of bowel cancers were identified as stage IV after routine or GP referral. In the emergency setting, where patients had had an emergency hospital referral by a GP, or were diagnosed as a hospital patient, approximately 40 % of bowel cancers were diagnosed as stage IV.

Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of early diagnosis, commented: “Bowel cancer in particular has a lot of room for improvement, so it’s great news that there’s a recommendation to use a new updated bowel cancer screening test called FIT. We know this is an easier test for people to use at home and that both men and women are more likely to use it, so it’s vital this is rolled out as quickly as possible across England.”

“It’s also important that people go to their doctor if they notice symptoms such as blood in their poo or a change in their normal bowel habit such as looser poo, pooing more often or constipation, even if they’ve recently had a bowel screening test.”

The full publication contains data in England between 2012 and 2013 for other cancers including: bladder, breast, kidney, lung, melanoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, ovarian, prostate and uterine cancers.

National screening is currently available for breast and bowel cancers and has an important part to play in achieving earlier diagnosis. The published data is an important step towards understanding how to give cancer patients the best possible chance of surviving the disease.

Sources: Routes to diagnosis of cancer by stage, 2012-2013, National Cancer Intelligence Network (2015); Cancer Research UK press release

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