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Thursday, 26 April, 2001, 00:21 GMT 01:21 UK
Doctors criticise bowel cancer care
Bowel scan
Survival rates improve if bowel cancer is detected early
The NHS is letting bowel cancer sufferers down, according to a survey of specialists.

The Mori survey of cancer doctors, on behalf of the Cancer Research Campaign, found UK treatment was lagging behind European standards.

Bowel cancer, often described as one of the "taboo cancers" because of patients' reluctance to discuss it with doctors, killed 17,000 Britons in 1998 and is the second most common cause of cancer death in the UK.

New treatments ... could for some patients increase their probability of long-term survival

Professor Gordon McVie
Cancer Research Campaign
Lack of access to innovative drug therapies was blamed by 95% of cancer doctors surveyed as the main factor contributing to "poor management" of the disease in the UK.

The survey is released as the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice) prepares to rule on NHS use of newer chemotherapy drugs for bowel cancer.

Survival rates

A separate Mori survey of the general public found people felt the UK lagged behind France and Germany in providing cancer care.

Studies have estimated that the five-year survival rates for patients with colon or rectal cancer in the UK were 39% and 38% respectively between 1986 and 1990, compared with survival rates of 47% and 43% in the rest of Europe and 64% in the USA.

More than three-quarters of the ordinary people surveyed felt strongly that the area in which they live, the specialist they first seek advice from and whether they have private medical insurance may affect standards of cancer care.

The survey of cancer doctors also raised concerns that their choice of chemotherapy treatments for NHS patients is restricted by the climate of "post-code prescription".

'Extremely disturbing'

Surveyed doctors maintained the availability of newer drugs that allow better surgery is limited.

Professor Gordon McVie, director general of the Cancer Research Campaign said: "It is extremely disturbing that specialists feel the main reason for us lagging so far behind other countries in managing this disease is because newer chemotherapy treatments are not readily available on the NHS.

"New treatments...could for some patients increase their probability of long-term survival."

The survey also highlight the taboos surrounding bowel cancer preventing sufferers from quickly seeking medical help, with three-quarters of cancer specialists stating it is a "main factor" contributing to poor management of the disease.

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See also:

19 Mar 01 | Health
Bowel cancer 'undetected'
01 Apr 01 | Health
Survey highlights 'taboo' cancer
22 Nov 00 | Health
Call for over 50s bowel screening
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