Healthy living

Survival rates for bowel cancer surgery highly variable

Survival rates for bowel cancer surgery  variable Large gaps between NHS hospitals

Survival rates following bowel cancer surgery vary considerably between UK hospitals and are worse than in many other countries, a study has found.

Cancer Research UK, who funded the study, described the results as "worrying."

Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK, and the second biggest cause of death from cancer. More than 35,000 people are diagnosed with the disease every year.

For the first time, researchers analysed the 30 day survival rates of just under 161,000 patients who underwent major bowel cancer surgery at 150 different hospitals across England between 1998 and 2006.

Overall, 6.7 per cent of patients died within 30 days of major surgery for bowel cancer during the study period across all hospital trusts.

The proportion of people who died within a month of surgery fell from 6.8 per cent in 1998 to 5.8 per cent in 2006.

However, the rates varied significantly between hospital trusts, ranging from around 1.68 per cent for the Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to 15.6 per cent at Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

The findings, published in the journal Gut, also compared unfavourably with those from Scandinavia, US, and Canada with 30 day post-operative mortality rates between 2.7 and 5.7 per cent.

“This suggests that either the NHS may have fundamentally worse postoperative outcomes than some other comparable health services or that the operative risk of patients differs between countries,” the authors wrote.

“Understanding and minimising these differences could significantly reduce the number of premature deaths caused by the disease across the country.”

They added that the decision to publicise death rates after cardiothoracic surgery had demonstrably improved survival rates among these patients.

This article was published on Tue 12 April 2011

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