Nine in ten survive early stage bowel cancer

23. 06. 2009 | Adapted from the UK National Cancer Intelligence Network Press Release

Nine in ten people with bowel cancer that is caught early will survive the disease, according to new statistics published today (Tuesday).

Nine in ten survive early stage bowel cancer

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Experts believe this shows how vital it is for people with possible symptoms to get them checked out so that any cancer can be diagnosed as early as possible. They also say that this highlights the importance of taking part in bowel cancer screening when invited.

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

Doctors say that this good news is mainly because of improved surgical techniques. Professor David Forman, director of NYCRIS and information lead for the 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. More than 80 per cent of bowel cancer cases occur in people over 60. Bowel cancer screening will be available across England for people in this age group by December 2009, and it can pick up changes that could be the earliest sign of cancer (see Note 1). Pilot screening programmes showed that over half of cancers detected through screening are at the earliest stage. So it is really important that people take part in screening when they’re sent the kit – it could save their life."

Paul Finan, bowel cancer surgeon and chair of the NCIN's bowel cancer group, said: "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 – like more sophisticated anaesthetic care and better care during hospital admission and recovery."

The NCIN looked at every case of bowel cancer diagnosed in England between 1996 and 2006 and the percentage of people that survived for at least five years. The survival figures were grouped together by each of the four stages of bowel cancer, known as Dukes A, B, C, and D (see Note 2), with A being the earliest stage of the disease. Only around 13 per cent of bowel cancers are diagnosed at stage A, so it is important to find ways to increase this proportion, including through bowel cancer screening. Around 34 per cent of cases were recorded without details of the stage of the disease.

Chris Carrigan, head of the NCIN, said: "This is the first of many reports that the NCIN will produce, some of which will include detailed statistics on cancer – like the stage of cancer – that have never been brought together on a national scale (see Note 3). We know that most cancers are more likely to be treated successfully if they are spotted early, so it's important that we have a way to measure if this is happening. Through information like this, we can help to improve cancer services. We can figure out which cancers are being diagnosed at a later stage and suggest policies and health campaigns to address these issues."


  1. In the Czech Republic, colorectal cancer screening has been available since January 2009 to all people aged 50 years and above.
  2. The classification system Dukes approximately corresponds to the international TNM classification system, which is also used in the Czech Republic: Dukes A = Stage I (the earliest stage), ... Dukes D = Stage IV (the most advanced stage).
  3. In the Czech Republic, detailed data on malignant tumours have been maintained and regularly updated in the Czech National Cancer Registry since 1977. Graphical outputs of epidemiological analyses are on-line available to anyone at

Keywords: bowel cancer, colorectal cancer screening