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Statistics and outlook for bowel cancer

Men and women discussing bowel cancer

This page is about statistics and what they can tell us about the outlook for people with bowel cancer. You can find the following information

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Statistics and outlook for bowel cancer

Outlook is also called prognosis and means your chances of getting better. With bowel cancer the likely outcome depends on how advanced the cancer is when it is diagnosed.

Lower down this page we have quite detailed information about the likely outcome of different stages of bowel cancer. The statistics we use are taken from a variety of sources, including the opinions and experiences of the experts who check our information. The statistics are intended as a general guide only. For the more complete picture in your case, you’d have to speak to your own specialist. We include statistics because people ask for them, but not everyone wants to read this type of information.

How reliable are cancer statistics?

No statistics can tell you what will happen to you. Your cancer is unique. The same type of cancer can grow at different rates in different people. The statistics cannot tell you about the different treatments people may have had, or how that treatment may have affected their prognosis. There are many individual factors that will affect your treatment and your outlook.

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the treating bowel cancer section.

 

 

About the information on this page

This page contains quite detailed information about the survival rates of different stages of bowel cancer. We have included it because many people have asked us for this. But not everyone who is diagnosed with a cancer wants to read this type of information. If you are not sure whether you want to know at the moment or not, then perhaps you might like to skip this page for now. You can always come back to it.

Please note that no national statistics are available for different stages of cancer or treatments that people may have had. The statistics we present here are pulled together from a variety of different sources, including the opinions and experience of the experts who check our information. We give statistics because people ask us for them. But they are only intended as a general guide and cannot tell you about your individual outcome.

 

Cancer statistics in general

We have another section explaining about cancer statistics and also about incidence, mortality and survival. Unless you are very familiar with medical statistics it might help to read this before you read the statistics below.

Remember that 5 year survival and 10 year survival are terms that doctors use. This doesn't mean you will only live 5 or 10 years. 10 year survival relates to the number of people in research studies who were still alive 10 years after diagnosis. Doctors follow what happens to people for 10 years or more after treatment in cancer research studies. This is because there is only a small chance that a cancer will come back more than 10 years after treatment. They do not like to say these people are cured because there is that small chance. So they use the term 10 year survival instead.

 

Overall outlook

Of all those with colon cancer, about 74 out of every 100 people (74%) live for at least a year after they are diagnosed. About 58 out of every 100 people (58%) live for at least 5 years. And about 57 out of every 100 people (57%) live for at least 10 years.

Of all those with rectal cancer, about 79 out of every 100 people (79%) live for at least a year after they are diagnosed. About 60 out of every 100 people (60%) live for at least 5 years. And about 56 out of every 100 people (56%) live for at least 10 years.

As with many other types of cancer, the outcome of colon or rectal cancer depends on how advanced it is when it is diagnosed. In other words, the stage of your cancer. The outlook for people with bowel cancer has improved a lot over the past 40 years.

 

Outlook by stage

This section contains information about the outlook for each stage of bowel cancer. We don't know the stage for about 34 out of every 100 people (34%) at the time they are diagnosed. 

The statistics relate to people having surgery. About 80 out of every 100 people with bowel cancer (80%) have surgery intended to cure their cancer. But the cancer comes back in up to half of these people.

Stage 1

Stage 1 bowel cancer is also called Dukes' A. As this is a very early stage cancer it has a high cure rate. After surgery more than 9 out of 10 patients (93%) will live for more than 5 years. Unfortunately, at the moment fewer than 9 out of every 100 patients (9%) diagnosed with colorectal cancer have stage 1. As bowel cancer screening has been introduced across the UK, we hope that more people will have their cancer diagnosed early.

Stage 2

Stage 2 bowel cancer is also called Dukes' B. About a quarter (24%) of people with colorectal cancer are diagnosed at this stage. Depending on various factors, after surgery more than three quarters (up to 77%) of people with stage 2 colorectal cancer can expect to live longer than 5 years.

Stage 3

Stage 3 bowel cancer is also called Dukes' C. Roughly 23 out of every 100 people (23%) with colorectal cancer are diagnosed at this stage. The outcome depends on the number of lymph nodes that contain cancer cells. After surgery almost half of those with Stage 3 bowel cancer (48%) will live for at least 5 years.

Stage 4

Stage 4 bowel cancer is also sometimes called Dukes' D. In roughly 9 out of every 100 people (9%) with colorectal cancer, the cancer has already spread to another part of their body when they are diagnosed. For this advanced cancer the survival rates are lower. Only about 6 people out of every 100 (6%) will live for at least 5 years after they are diagnosed. But if the cancer has spread into the liver and the areas in the liver can be removed with surgery, some recent studies have shown 5 year survival rates of 25 to 40%.

 

How reliable are these statistics?

No statistics can tell you what will happen to you. Your cancer is unique. So statistics can only give a rough idea of what may happen to you. The available statistics are not detailed enough to tell you about the different treatments people may have had. They also can't tell how that treatment may have affected their outlook. Some treatments may help people to live longer as well as relieving symptoms. There are many individual factors that will affect your treatment and prognosis.

 

Clinical trials

Taking part in clinical trials can help to improve the outlook for people in the future. If you are interested in taking part in a clinical trial, talk to your cancer specialist. We have information about clinical trials in the trials and research section. And you can search for UK trials on our trials database. Choose 'bowel cancer' from the dropdown list of cancer types.

Bowel cancer survival rate impact statement

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Updated: 30 April 2014