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Home › News › RCS/ACPGBI statement: Bowel cancer audit points to future direction to save lives in emergency cases

RCS/ACPGBI statement: Bowel cancer audit points to future direction to save lives in emergency cases

30 November 2011

Many more bowel cancer patient lives could be saved if the NHS made more consultant time available for emergencies, more cancers are detected early and new techniques more widely used, say the presidents of the Royal College of Surgeons and Association of Coloproctology of Great Britain and Ireland responding to the publication of the National Bowel Cancer Audit 2011.

Bowel cancer is frequently only detected at a late stage and a significant number of patients don’t realise they have it until the tumour causes a life-threatening emergency bleed or blockage. These patients are typically in imminent danger and need a quick operation. The audit, published today (Weds, Nov 30) by the NHS Information Centre, showed that while results for planned operations was improving mortality for emergency patients remained high.

An innovation that could help improve care is colonic stenting. This technique enables a bowel blocked by tumour to be opened by inserting a device. This temporary measure buys vital time for the patient to be stabilised, prepared for surgery and for the expert team to be assembled. A trial is currently underway to prove the safety and value of this approach – the RCS/ ACPGBI encourage as many hospitals as possible to sign up as participation gives surgeons the back up of training and a support network so the technique can be introduced safely for patients.

Professor Norman Williams, President of the Royal College of Surgeons, said:

“Last month the RCS produced a report on the failings of the NHS in effectively treating emergency patients and bowel cancer emergencies are a regular situation hospitals face. The NHS could be doing a lot more to organise in a way that gets these very sick patients in the care of a consultant surgeon earlier on their arrival at hospital and we would encourage commissioners to find out if their local hospital is following Royal college of Surgeons standards for emergency care.”

Nigel Scott, President of the Association of Coloproctology of Great Britain & Ireland, said:

“We welcome the increasing success of colorectal surgeons, specialist nurses, oncologists and other medical specialties in combating this common and deadly UK cancer. However, advanced emergency presentation of bowel cancer remains a concern. All too often worries are locked behind the bathroom door because of embarrassment until the problem is too advanced to be retrievable. Bowel Awareness – loose poo and blood in the poo – are warnings that people over 50 need to take seriously and discuss with their doctor about.

The ACP fully supports the Department of Health Bowel Awareness Campaign to be launched in January 2012 – in the hope that earlier presentation by patients and more bowel telescopes to find bowel cancer, will boost the success of colorectal cancer treatment further still.”

The National Bowel Cancer Audit 2011 can be found here.

Further information on the CREST colonic stenting trial, being run from the University of Birmingham can be found here.

For further information on the RCS Emergency surgery standards:

The Department of Health campaign on Bowel cancer awareness is starting January 2012


Notes to Editors:

1. The Association of Coloproctology of Great Britain and Ireland is a professional society representing more than 1000 Colon and Rectal specialists dedicated to advancing and promoting the science and practice of the treatment of patients with diseases and disorders affecting the colon, rectum, and anus. It is also known as The Association of Bowel Specialists.

2. The Royal College of Surgeons of England is committed to enabling surgeons to achieve and maintain the highest standards of surgical practice and patient care. Registered charity number: 212808. For more information please visit

3. NBOCAP - The National Bowel Cancer Audit Project is a high profile, collaborative, national clinical audit for bowel cancer run jointly by The NHS Information Centre and the Association of Coloproctology of Great Britain and Ireland (ACPGBI).

4. If you have any queries please contact:

Matthew Worrall – Email:; T: 020 7869 6047

Katie Bennett – Email:; T: 020 7869 6052

Out-of-hours: 07966 486 832

5. If you are interested in the CREST study contact Jenni Ameghino in University of Birmingham Press Office on: T: 0121 415 8134; M: 07768 924156