50+ health * Healthy living

Nine in ten survive bowel cancer if discovered early

General medical procedure image Get early symptoms checked out, urge experts

Nine out of ten people survive bowel cancer if it is detected in the early stage of disease, according to new figures released today.

Experts believe the figures demonstrate why people need to visit their GP to get any symptoms checked out as soon as possible, and highlight the importance of taking part in bowel cancer screening programmes.

The figures are the first to be based on national statistics and are published by the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) along with the Northern and Yorkshire Cancer Registry and Information Service (NYCRIS).

All cases of bowel cancer diagnosed in England between 1996 and 2006 were grouped according to the four stages of bowel cancer. Researchers then calculated the percentage of people who survived for at least five years.

David Forman, director of NYCRIS and commenting for NCIN, said:

"It's really encouraging that more people with bowel cancer will now be successfully treated, if the disease is caught at the earliest stage."

"But overall, only half of people with bowel cancer survive, so this shows how crucial it is that the disease is spotted early."

Doctors also think improved surgical techniques contributed to the survival rates.

Paul Finan, bowel cancer surgeon and chair of the NCIN's bowel cancer group, commented:

"The reason why more people are surviving early stage bowel cancer than ever before is mostly because of many improvements in surgery. This includes using less invasive techniques, and patients receiving better care around the time of surgery."

Bowel cancer screening in England began in April 2006 and should be available to everyone aged of 60-69 by December 2009.

From 2010, the bowel screening programme is due to be extended to men and women aged 70-75.

This article was published on Tue 23 June 2009

Image © Leah-Anne Thompson - Fotolia.com

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