One in five bowel cancer patients diagnosed in an emergency had “red flag” symptoms that should have been picked up earlier, a study in the British Journal of Cancer suggests. And 16% of emergency bowel cancer patients had seen their GP three times or more with relevant symptoms.
The UK research found that on average, patients who were not diagnosed until their case became an emergency had visited their GP five times in the 12 months previously. Experts said patients were being left with worse survival chances because multiple opportunities were being missed to identify the disease early.
The researchers, from University College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, focused on what had happened to patients in the five years leading up to their cancer diagnosis.
They analysed National Cancer Registry data that was linked to GP data for 1,606 patients from more than 200 GP practices.
Bowel cancer … the symptoms
- Bleeding from the bottom or blood in your poo
- A persistent change in bowel habit, especially going more often or loose stools
- Abdominal pain, especially if severe
- A lump in your tummy
- Unexplained weight loss or tiredness
In numbers … cancer in the UK
10,000 – the number of lives which could be saved with earlier diagnosis
352,197 – the number of people diagnosed with cancer each year ( in 2013)
161,823 – the number of annual deaths from cancer (2012)
50% – the chance of living at least 10 years after cancer diagnosis (as of 2010-11)
41% – the percentage of cancer cases which are preventable