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NHS aims to improve care for colorectal cancer

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.315.7121.1485g (Published 06 December 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:1485
  1. Zosia Kmietowicz
  1. London

    The Department of Health has launched an initiative to improve NHS services for people with colorectal cancer-the second most common cause of death from cancer in the United Kingdom and which claims the lives of 17000 people every year.

    The document, Improving Outcomes in Colorectal Cancer, is designed to help health authorities, GPs, hospitals, and community health practitioners to plan and provide the most effective services for colorectal cancer. Evidence exists that Britain lags behind other countries in terms of outcomes for colorectal cancer and that performance varies significantly across the country and between surgeons.

    Professor Bob Steele, professor of surgery at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, said: “The most important concept of the publication is that patients with colo-rectal cancer should be looked after by groups of people with a special interest in the disease and that the care is multidisciplinary-people should work together. As far as improving outcomes is concerned, the most important thing that can be done is diagnose the disease earlier.”

    One of the problems with colorectal cancer is that public awareness of the symptoms is low, so many patients present late, added Professor Steele. Screening could lead to earlier diagnosis and reduce mortality, he said. And although the present document does not address screening, the matter is being discussed.

    The new guidance has been produced by the Department of Health's cancer guidance subgroup, part of the Clinical Outcomes Group, after examining the evidence available. The work is published as three linked documents: a practical manual, the research evidence, and a summary report.

    Figure1

    Public awareness of the symptoms of colorectal cancer is low

    SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

    The manual and research documents may be obtained free of charge by calling the NHS Response Line on 0541 555 455

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