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Elderly bowel cancer patients 'more likely' to present as emergency

Many bowel cancer patients in England are only diagnosed with the disease after an emergency admission to hospital.

The National Bowel Cancer Audit found 8,000 out of 31,000 (a quarter) patients with bowel cancer admitted to hospital over a 12-month period (August 2009 and July 2010) as an emergency.

Almost half (47%) of all older people aged 85 and over with bowel cancer were admitted to hospital as an emergency.

Female patients and those most deprived were also “more likely” to present as an emergency in secondary care.

Such patients are also “less likely” to have surgery than those who present through other means - such as direct referrals or a two-week wait.

It is claimed this reflects that emergency patients tend to have a more advanced stage of cancer on admission.

“Lessons can be learnt from observed differences and are likely to lead to improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of patients,” said Professor Paul Finan, clinical lead for the audit.

“This new work adds to the data currently available on patients with bowel cancer and is likely to be used by trusts when examining their outcomes; eventually against quality measures currently under development by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence; and also alongside published service profiles undergoing revision by the National Cancer Intelligence Network.”