Series of measures 'could cut bowel cancer deaths by nearly two-thirds'

In collaboration with the Press Association

The number of UK bowel cancer deaths could be cut by nearly two-thirds within the next 15 years if certain recommendations are followed, according to the charity Bowel Cancer UK.

The charity say a 60 per cent cut in deaths could be reached by 2025 if the Government makes the right improvements to bowel cancer care.

They also say efforts are needed to increase the number of people screened for the disease. At the moment just over 50 per cent of the over 60s send back their screening kits - but encouraging everyone to take part in screening would many more cancers could be spotted early, saving many more lives.

Bowel Cancer UK also say that hospitals, community and social care providers must work together more effectively in all parts of the UK. In particular, it called for better communication with patients. One in three receive no written information about bowel cancer at the moment.

Deborah Alsina, chief executive of Bowel Cancer UK, said: "We have a duty to save more lives and the proposals outlined in this report should be the Government's absolute minimum goal.

"We look forward to working with the Government, NHS and other charities to help save more lives from the UK's second biggest cancer killer."

The organisation's report, 2025 Challenge: Saving and Improving Lives, also says doctors and nurses must offer better care to patients.

One in five people told the charity they thought medical staff do not treat them with "dignity and respect", while one in four said they felt information from doctors about their disease was hard to understand.

And one in five patients said they have been given conflicting explanations about their disease.

Survival rates for bowel cancer have doubled over the last 40 years. But around 18 in every 100,000 people still die from the disease, making it the UK's second biggest cancer killer behind lung cancer.

Jessica Harris, health information manager at Cancer Research UK, agreed that working together is important to reduce the number of deaths from bowel cancer.

"Governments, charities, health organisations and individuals all have a role to play in encouraging people to make healthy choices to reduce the risk of developing the disease; helping people know what signs and symptoms to look out for; improving the uptake of bowel screening; and working to make sure bowel cancer is diagnosed promptly," she said.

She added that April is bowel cancer awareness month, the "perfect time" to make people aware that if they notice anything out of the ordinary in their body - like blood in their stools, or looser stools for three or more weeks - that they should go and see their GP.

She also encouraged people who receive an invitation to take part in bowel screening to complete and return the kit.

"When bowel cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, treatment is easier and many more people survive," she added.

Copyright Press Association 2012