Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK today, affecting around 1 in 19 women and 1 in 14 men. According to Cancer Research UK, there are now more than 41,900 new cases of bowel cancer being diagnosed every year.
If diagnosed at an early stage, bowel cancer can be treated very successfully in over 90% of cases. In spite of this, bowel cancer remains the UK’s second biggest cancer killer, claiming a life every half an hour.
43% of bowel cancer cases are diagnosed in people aged 75 years and over, and 95% are diagnosed in those aged 50 and over. However, bowel cancer can affect anyone at any age – around 5% of new bowel cancer cases are in people aged under 50.
Survival rates for bowel cancer are lower in the UK than in many other European countries and there is variation in the quality of care, depending on where you’re treated. Positive improvements are happening all the time in bowel cancer diagnosis, treatment and care. But we need to do better. Bowel cancer can be beaten – if we act to diagnose more people early and we deliver the best possible care and treatment.
We need to make sure bowel cancer is diagnosed earlier. When diagnosed at stage 1, more than nine out of ten (97%) people survive for five years or more. At stage 4, this drops to less than one in ten (7%).
As well as improving survival rates, we need better support for people with bowel cancer before, during and after treatment. It’s not just about how long people live but how well they live, including at the end of their lives.
We have an opportunity to make bowel cancer a rare cancer killer, with more lives saved, and ensure better care for every bowel cancer patient. To make this a reality we need work together. The NHS, government, doctors, nurses and health professionals, charities, scientists, researchers, and the public, can all join together to beat bowel cancer.