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Bowel cancer screening ‘has improved survival rates’



By Lilian Anekwe

The national Bowel Cancer Screening Programme has been hailed a success by cancer screening experts, after preliminary results showed the most advanced cancers were detected earlier through screening – significantly improving five-year survival rates.

The programme began in 2006 with a staged roll-out across England, and the researchers compared the Dukes’ stage, or grade, of bowel cancers seen in patients who were detected through screening with those whose cancers were diagnosed through other routes.

In the screened population more than 60% of detected cancers were Dukes stage A and B tumours – the earliest stages- with 27% Dukes stage C and only 10.2% of Dukes stage D tumours- the most advanced.

But in the general population with bowel cancer, 21.3% of detected cancers were Duke stage D tumours and only 13.6% were Dukes stage A.

Miss Elizabeth Taylor, a research fellow in the University of Leeds’ colorectal cancer epidemiology group, concluded: ‘This comparison of the Dukes’ stage distribution of cancers from the screened and non-screened populations in the current dataset demonstrates a significant stage shift.

‘The introduction of the programme has led to a significant stage shift between the non-screen and screen detected colorectal cancer populations.

Dr Julietta Patnick, director of the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes also worked on the study and said that while it was too early to know how many deaths the programme had prevented, the early results on five year survival from bowel cancer were encouraging.

She told Pulse: ‘In routine practice 8.7% of cancers are stage A with 93% survival at 5 years, and 24% stage B with 77% survival at 5 years compared with about 50% as a national average.

‘Three out of four tumours detected by the programme are stage A or B so we are assuming we will see quite an effect.’

The results will be presented at the British Society Gastroenterology annual conference in Liverpool this week.

Bowel cancer screening ‘has improved survival rates’