Emergency bowel cancer hospital admissions 'remain high'

In collaboration with the Press Association

The number of bowel cancer patients admitted to hospital as an emergency is "stubbornly" high, a national audit has found.

Around one in five patients with the disease go to hospital as an emergency case.

People who are admitted this way are likely to have a more advanced stage of cancer, which is often harder to treat.

The authors of the National Bowel Cancer Audit said that emergency admission rates are a "substantial challenge".

The audit, conducted by the Health and Social Care Information Centre, also found that patients who are operated on are almost twice as likely to live for two years beyond diagnosis compared with those who are not.

The audit, which looked at data from more than 50,000 bowel cancer patients, found that four in five who underwent major surgery in England and Wales between April 2008 and March 2010 lived beyond two years of diagnosis.

But only two in every five who were too frail to have surgery or whose cancer was too advanced for them to be operated on survived for two years, researchers found.

Sarah Williams, Cancer Research UK's health information officer, said the proportion of patients admitted in an emergency was "worrying".

"As this audit shows, these people tend to be less likely to survive their disease, so it's important that we do all we can to get bowel cancer diagnosed early, and through other non-emergency routes like GP referrals or screening.

Getting more bowel cancers diagnosed at an early stage will help save more lives from the disease. So don't sit on your symptoms. If you've noticed blood in your poo, a lasting change in bowel habit, or any other unusual change to your body that won't go away, tell your doctor. It may well not be cancer, but if it is, getting diagnosed sooner could make all the difference," she added

Mark Flannagan, chief executive of the charity Beating Bowel Cancer, said the lack of improvement in emergency cases was "a major concern".

"More needs to be done to educate both the public and GPs about the symptoms of bowel cancer, and how vital it is to catch it early," he added.

Copyright Press Association 2013