Response to research showing that cancer patients diagnosed early are more likely to avoid chemotherapy – Judith Brodie, Interim Chief Executive, Beating Bowel Cancer

Posted on - 27/10/2017
Author: Communications Team

Research by Cancer Research UK and Public Health England revealed this week (26 October 2017) has shown that cancer patients diagnosed at the earliest stage, compared to the latest stage, are around five times more likely to have surgery to remove their tumour and less likely to have chemotherapy.

Specifically in colon cancer patients diagnosed at the earliest stage, 94% have surgery to remove their tumour and less than 1 in 20 have chemotherapy, compared to nearly 5 in 10 or 47% diagnosed at stage 4.


The new data further reinforces the importance of early bowel cancer diagnosis. It is clear that the earlier the diagnosis, the more likely it can be treated successfully through surgery rather than chemotherapy, with less long term side effects on patients.


Early detection can increase survival rates and improve the quality of life of patients. This is why we continue to campaign for the bowel cancer screening age in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to be reduced from 60 to 50, to bring it in line with Scotland. Standardising bowel cancer screening from 50 is the right thing to do, both ethically and rationally. There are also economic benefits to the NHS of earlier treatment options; the cost of treating a patient diagnosed at an early stage is roughly a quarter of that associated with a late stage diagnosis[1].


The new FIT test will also play a big part in early detection, through the introduction of a simple, less invasive at-home test that can detect the early signs of bowel cancer with more accuracy.  NICE has already recommended its use by GPs for some patients with unexplained symptoms[2] , and there is evidence that screening uptake increases once it is in use[3].


Bowel cancer is the UK’s fourth most common cancer and the second biggest cancer killer, claiming a life every 30 minutes. Around 110 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every day – that’s one every fifteen minutes.


[1] Incisive health – Saving Lives, Averting Costs: