New data shows increasing survival rates for bowel cancer surgery patients

Published: 14 Dec 2015

The number of people surviving bowel cancer following major surgery has increased significantly in recent years according to the National Bowel Cancer Audit Report 2015 which is published today by the Royal College of Surgeons and commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP) as part of the National Clinical Audit Programme.                                                                                                

Bowel cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is one of the most common types of cancer diagnosed in the UK.  Over 40,000 people are diagnosed every year and around 16,000 die as the result of bowel cancer every year[1].

Read the full report

Today’s audit has found that during 2013/14 some 96.2 per cent of patients were alive 90 days after a major operation for bowel cancer. This is a significant improvement from 2009-10 when 94.2 per cent patients were alive on the same measure. The difference means hundreds more patients are now surviving bowel cancer following major surgery since more than 19,000 patients undergo surgery every year. Surgery is the main and most effective treatment for bowel cancer.

However, the report notes that only a fifth of bowel cancer patients of screening age (ages 60-74) had their cancers detected through screening.

Mr James Hill, a Consultant Colorectal Surgeon at Manchester Royal Infirmary and Audit Clinical Lead, said: “More patients than ever before are surviving bowel cancer following surgery – survival rates for major surgery have improved from 94.2 per cent to 96.2 per cent in just 4 years.  This can in part be attributed to improved multidisciplinary team working – as specialists work together to choose the best care pathway for patients.

“We know that patients whose cancer is diagnosed early are more likely to respond to curative treatment than those who are admitted to hospital as an emergency.  This is why it is so important that we raise awareness of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme which is available to men and women aged 60 to 74, every two years. All individuals of the appropriate age should participate and take up the offer of free screening for bowel cancer.”

Today’s publication also finds that:

  • A large majority (82%) of patients having major surgery to remove their cancer are still alive two-years later.
  • One in three patients do not have major surgery to remove their cancer. This reduces their survival rates. For example, only 36% of patients whose cancer is too advanced or who are too frail to withstand surgery were still alive two years after diagnosis.
  • Overall two year survival varies widely across England and Wales from 52% to 68%.
  • Almost half of patients have their tumour removed by ‘key hole’ (laparoscopic) surgery.

The full version of the 2015 Annual report is available at: