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New data shows increasing survival rates for bowel cancer surgery patients

14 Dec 2015

The number of people surviving bowel cancer following major surgery has increased significantly in recent years according to the National Bowel Cancer Audit Report 2015.
Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed in the UK. Over 40,000 people are diagnosed every year and around 16,000 die as the result of bowel cancer every year [1].

Today’s audit has found that during 2013-14 some 96.2 per cent of patients were alive 90 days after a major operation for bowel cancer. This is a significant improvement from 2009-10 when 94.2 per cent patients were alive on the same measure. The difference means hundreds more patients are now surviving bowel cancer following major surgery since more than 19,000 patients undergo surgery every year. Surgery is the main and most effective treatment for bowel cancer.

However, the report notes that only a fifth of bowel cancer patients of screening age (ages 60-74) had their cancers detected through screening.

The audit was published today by the Royal College of Surgeons in partnership with the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), The Association of Coloproctology of Great Britain and Ireland (ACPGBI) and commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP) as part of the National Clinical Audit Programme.

Mr James Hill, a Consultant Colorectal Surgeon at Manchester Royal Infirmary and Audit Clinical Lead, said: “More patients than ever before are surviving bowel cancer following surgery – survival rates for major surgery have improved from 94.2 per cent to 96.2 per cent in just 4 years. This can in part be attributed to improved multidisciplinary team working – as specialists work together to choose the best care pathway for patients.

“We know that patients whose cancer is diagnosed early are more likely to respond to curative treatment than those who are admitted to hospital as an emergency. This is why it is so important that we raise awareness of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme which is available to men and women aged 60 to 74, every two years. All individuals of the appropriate age should participate and take up the offer of free screening for bowel cancer.”

Today’s publication also finds that:

• A large majority (82%) of patients having major surgery to remove their cancer are still alive two-years later.
• One in three patients do not have major surgery to remove their cancer. This reduces their survival rates. For example, only 36% of patients whose cancer is too advanced or who are too frail to withstand surgery were still alive two years after diagnosis.
• Overall two year survival varies widely across England and Wales from 52% to 68%.
• Almost half of patients have their tumour removed by ‘key hole’ (laparoscopic) surgery.

Read the full version of the 2015 Annual report.

Notes to editors


2. The National Bowel Cancer Audit was commissioned by Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership as part of the National Clinical Audit Programme, and developed by the Royal College of Surgeons of England, the Association of Coloproctologists of Great Britain and Ireland, and the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

3. 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. 

4. The Association of Coloproctology of Great Britain and Ireland is a multi-disciplinary organisation whose membership, consisting of medical, nursing and associated healthcare professionals, treat most patients with bowel cancer. The bowel cancer audit was initially developed by the Association over ten years ago and is now one of the national cancer audits commissioned by HQIP.    

5. The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) was established on April 1 2013 as an Executive Non Departmental Public Body (ENDPB). The trusted source of authoritative data and information relating to health and care, HSCIC plays a fundamental role in driving better care, better services and better outcomes for patients. It supports the delivery of IT infrastructure, information systems and standards to ensure information flows efficiently and securely across the health and social care system to improve patient outcomes. Its work includes publishing more than 130 statistical publications annually; providing a range of specialist data services; managing informatics projects and programmes and developing and assuring national systems against appropriate contractual, clinical safety and information standards.

6. About HQIP, the National Clinical Audit Programme and how it is funded:
The Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP) is led by a consortium of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, the Royal College of Nursing and National Voices. Its aim is to promote quality improvement, and in particular to increase the impact that clinical audit has on healthcare quality in England and Wales. HQIP holds the contract to manage and develop the National Clinical Audit Programme, comprising more than 30 clinical audits that cover care provided to people with a wide range of medical, surgical and mental health conditions. The programme is funded by NHS England, the Welsh Government and, with some individual audits, also funded by the Health Department of the Scottish Government, DHSSPS Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands.

7. Audit findings over 1000 in this press release have been rounded. Percentages for survival rates have been rounded to the nearest whole number.

8. Major surgery refers to a major resection for bowel cancer. This includes the following procedures: right hemicolectomy; transverse colectomy; left hemicolectomy; sigmoid colectomy; total colectomy; anterior resection; abdomino-perineal excision of the rectum (APER)/exenteration of pelvis; Hartmann's procedure.

9. There are many reasons why patients may not undergo major surgery to remove their cancer, including: some early stage cancers can be removed by a minor procedure; some patients have such advanced cancer that they are unlikely to benefit from major surgery; and some patients are too frail to withstand major surgery.

10. Two year survival estimates are for patients diagnosed with bowel cancer between 1 April 2011 and 31 March 2012.

11. For more information, please contact the RCS press office on:
020 7869 6041/ 6052
Out-of hours: 07966 486 832


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