Page last updated at 23:10 GMT, Saturday, 14 August 2004 00:10 UK

Patients left out of cancer care choice

By Melissa Jackson
BBC News Online health staff

Bowel cancer can be treated

Being given a diagnosis of cancer is one of the toughest ordeals anyone has to face.

After the information has sunk in, there is all the medical jargon to wade through at a time when your brain is overloaded with stress and anxiety.

Then there are the treatment options to consider, that is, if you are given the opportunity to discuss them.

Too few people are aware that they have choices in their treatment, according to a survey by the charity Beating Bowel Cancer.

Less than half of people asked (46%) said they were aware that cancer patients were encouraged to make a joint decision with their specialist about the type of treatment they received.

The charity says there is also evidence of large variations in usage of cancer drugs across the country - patients in some regions will not receive chemotherapy drugs for bowel cancer that have been recommended nationally and should be available to them

The consultant chooses what he thinks is best for you and you accept it because you don't know anything else
Paula Lloyd, bowel cancer patient

The findings come as Beating Bowel Cancer launches a campaign calling for more patient-focused and patient-friendly information about bowel cancer treatment options.

It is issuing a comprehensive guide: "Treating Bowel Cancer: Your Choices", which is designed to provide patients and their families with the knowledge and confidence to discuss treatment options that are available for bowel cancer.

One bowel cancer patient who feels she was not given enough choice in her care is 43-year-old Paula Lloyd.

She was diagnosed with bowel cancer last November and is about to undergo her final cycle of chemotherapy.

She was prescribed drugs that are currently being used in clinical trials.

Patient stress

Mrs Lloyd said: "There was no information on what the options were.

"They said I could have the drugs that are part of the clinical trials or the standard drugs, but they didn't tell us what the standard drugs were.

"The consultant said 'the chemotherapy that I recommend is the one that is part of the clinical trials'.

"The consultant chooses what he thinks is best for you and you accept it because you don't know anything else."

Paula is not unhappy about her drug treatment, which has shrunk the tumour, but feels she could have been given more information at the time of diagnosis to enable her to take part in the decision-making process.

Dr Harpreet Wasan, cancer consultant at the Hammersmith Hospital and medical adviser to Beating Bowel Cancer, said: "Understandably, many cancer patients feel overwhelmed by the decisions they need to make about their treatments - at such a distressing time.

"The guide is a welcome step forward and should give patients the knowledge they need to have an informed discussion with their specialist about the most suitable and effective treatments for them.

"Surviving cancer is a major battle - but one which can be won - with access to the right treatments, at the right time."

Bowel cancer is the UK's third most common cancer and affects more than 35,000 people every year - of which nearly half will die from the disease (only lung cancer kills more people).

It is estimated that around 90% of cases could be treated successfully if caught at an early stage, but many people, often embarrassed to discuss their symptoms, delay seeking medical advice.

Bowel cancer
10 Jul 09 |  Health


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