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Colorectal cancer treatment delayed for up to a year

Wednesday November 28th, 2018

Some patients with colorectal cancer do not begin treatment until a year after they first notice symptoms, researchers warn today.

The delay is because patients may take months to see a GP – and then face further waits to begin treatment, according to the analysis.

The work, funded by Cancer Research UK, is published today (28 November) in BMJ Open. It is based on an analysis of questionnaires and medical records from 2,866 patients treated in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland between 2013 and 2015.

Patients in Wales waited longest to approach their GP after noticing a health concern or symptom - an average of 49 days. Patients in Wales also had the longest wait for chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery after diagnosis - 39 days on average.

The average time from first noticing a change and beginning treatment was 145 days in England, 138 days in Northern Ireland and 120 days in Scotland. Overall in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, it could be more than a year from first noticing a symptom to beginning treatment (for 10% of patients).

These durations were compared against other countries around the world. For example, in Denmark the process takes 77 days on average.

The research aimed to "identify important differences to inspire improvements in diagnosing cancer across the world and help save more lives".

Sara Hiom of Cancer Research UK commented: “This work shows that the UK has a major task ahead to improve how promptly bowel cancer patients receive treatment.

“There is much we can learn from other countries, from addressing barriers to encourage people to visit the GP if they notice unusual changes to ensuring they have the swiftest possible path from referral to diagnosis and treatment."

Weller, D. et al. Diagnostic routes and time intervals for colorectal cancer in ten international jurisdictions; findings from a cross-sectional study from the International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership. BMJ Open 28 November 2018

Tags: Cancer | Gastroenterology | NHS | UK News

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