Tenth of bowel cancer patients die within weeks of diagnosis
Almost ten per cent of people with bowel cancer die within a month of first being diagnosed, a new study has found.
Analysis released this week by the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) shows that of the number which passed away in a month or less, 56 per cent were aged 80 years or over, while 60 per cent were in the later stages of the disease and had only been diagnosed recently due to an emergency hospital admission.
The research was compiled by doctors at the University of Leeds and the Hull York Medical School in partnership with the Yorkshire Cancer Registry.
They looked into all data for people diagnosed with bowel cancer in England between the beginning of 2006 and the end of 2008. During that time they found that some 91,980 people had been diagnosed and around 9,000 died within a month.
Study author, Eva Morris from the University of Leeds said that survival rates in England are poor when compared to other Europeannations.
She believes that the problem in this country is that people do not seek medical advice early enough when they develop symptoms of the disease.
"Crucially, the report highlights that these people tend to first be seen as an emergency patient in hospital and have advanced disease and can't be offered treatment that could potentially cure them," she said.
"But, there is a problem of older patients being more likely to die quickly after a bowel cancer diagnosis."
Mick Peake, chief clinician at the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN), said the key point to come out of the study is the fact that early diagnosis is of the utmost importance if lives are to be saved or prolonged.
He stated: "It suggests that the public, especially the elderly, may not be aware of the diseases' warning signs or they don't want to bother their doctor with possible symptoms and so are being diagnosed at a late stage in the course of their illness.
"Increasing awareness of the symptoms of the disease and diagnosing patients at an early stage is vital if we are to improve survival from the disease."
According to Chris Carrigan, head of the NCIN, the warning signs of bowel cancer include having blood in your poo or loose poo for a period of three weeks or more.
Bowel cancer screenings are offered to people aged between 60 and 69 every two years on the NHS and the results are reported as being very good when it comes to detecting the disease at an early stage.
More than eight out of ten bowel cancer cases in the UK occur in people over 60 years of age. Worldwide it is estimated that as many as 1.24 million cases are diagnosed each year.
In the UK it is the third most common form of cancer, behind prostate and lung cancer.
However, survival rates for bowel cancer are getting better. Statistics from the charity Cancer Research UK show that the number of people living for five years after their initial diagnosis has more than doubled in the past 40 years.
On top of that, more than 50 per cent survive with the disease for a period of ten years or more.
The charity says that a high intake of red and processed meats will increase your chances of developing cancer, while a diet which is rich in fibre will reduce the likelihood.
Smoking and drinking alcohol are also believed to heighten the risk of getting the disease.
Cancer Research UK says that 20,000 deaths could be prevented each year if more people accepted the invitation of a bowel screening.