Bowel Cancer challenge revealed by international research

Bangor University’s North Wales Centre for Primary Care Research has been involved in an international large–scale review of treatment times for people with bowel cancer.

Co-ordinated in the UK by Cancer Research UK, with Cancer Research Wales funding the Welsh arm of this study, and reported in BMJ Open, the International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership (ICBP) – a collaboration between countries with similar healthcare systems and high-quality data – tracked each step people with bowel cancer went through before treatment. They examined questionnaires, completed by 2,866 international patients and their doctors, as well as medical records of patients diagnosed between 2013 and 2015.

By comparing healthcare systems in similar countries, the ICBP can help identify important differences to inspire improvements in diagnosing cancer across the world and help save more lives.

One of the findings was that it took a year or more from first spotting a symptom to beginning treatment for 10% of patients in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

They found that men and women in Wales took the longest to contact their doctor once they had noticed a health concern or symptom (49 days on average).

Once cancer had been diagnosed patients in Wales then waited the longest (39 days on average) before starting chemotherapy, radiotherapy or having surgery - more than double the length of time for patients in Denmark and Victoria, Australia (14 days).

Overall, patients in Wales had the longest time than any of the other areas in the study between noticing a change and beginning treatment (168 days on average).

This compared to 145 days in England, 138 days in Northern Ireland and 120 days in Scotland. Denmark performed the best with the process taking 77 days on average.

Professor Clare Wilkinson, co-director of the North Wales Centre for Primary Care Research said:

“While the news is not good, the fact that we have been able to work on the high quality data from Wales in this comparative research means that we now understand the challenges better and can work towards improvement.

“There are already initiatives within the NHS aimed at improving the situation.”

The North Wales Centre for Primary Care Research (NWCPCR) are a research and teaching group within Bangor University’s School of Health Sciences.  They conduct high-quality primary care research that impacts upon clinical practice and health policy and is a core part of the University’s Bangor Institute of Health and Medical Research.

Publication date: 3 December 2018