This site is intended for health professionals only

Massive variation in bowel cancer survival rates

People who are unable to have an operation for bowel cancer are unlikely to live for more than two years after diagnosis.

Research involving more than 50,000 bowel cancer patients shows that four in five patients who underwent surgery in England in Wales between 2008-10 lived for two years following diagnosis.

However, only two in five of people who were unable to be operated upon survived for two years after being diagnosed.

The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) said further investigations are needed to define why some patients do not have the surgery.

Generally, patients who are too frail, with cancer that is too advanced are not given major surgery.

Nigel Scott, audit clinical lead and consultant colorectal surgeon at the Royal Preston Hospital, said outcomes have improved over the last three years.

He added: “Alongside all of this progress the widespread adoption of laparoscopic (keyhole) operations represents another success story for bowel cancer care in these countries.

“The downside continues to be the much poorer outcomes associated with not operating because of advanced disease... embarrassment puts people off from seeing the doctor.”