Emergency diagnosis of bowel cancer more common among deprived patients

OVER 13 per cent more bowel cancer patients living in the most deprived areas are diagnosed in emergency hospital admissions than patients living in the least deprived areas, according to a study funded by Cancer Research UK.

Researchers based at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and University College London analysed hospital admissions data of around 65,000 patients diagnosed with bowel cancer between 2011 and 2013.

They found that among the 8,681 patients who died between three and 12 months after a diagnosis, around two thirds (5,809) had an emergency hospital visit before dying and this was five per cent higher among those from more deprived backgrounds.

Nearly 40 per cent of bowel cancer patients in the study overall had at least one emergency hospital visit in the three months before their diagnosis, but nearly half (46 per cent) of the most deprived patients had emergency treatment compared to a third (33 per cent) of the least deprived.

Those patients diagnosed through the bowel screening programme had a lower proportion of emergency hospital visits after a diagnosis than those who were diagnosed through other routes.

Sara Hiom, director of early diagnosis at Cancer Research UK, said: "When symptoms are picked up quickly and bowel cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, nine in 10 patients survive but when it is detected in the late stages, survival falls to one in 10.

"Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK but because the symptoms, such as stomach pain, are often shared with problems such as IBS, it can sometimes be hard to spot. That’s why it’s really important for people to consider taking part in the bowel screening programme when invited; this can spot the disease before symptoms appear. This study shows that people diagnosed through screening are less likely to have an emergency hospital visit."

The research was published in the British Journal of Cancer.

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