Help us to stop bowel cancer

Live ad highlights importance of colonoscopy but demand set to double without investment

Today at 3.25pm (and later at 9.30pm) the very first TV ad showing a live colonoscopy on a patient aired on Channel 4. For 90 seconds, viewers saw a demonstration of a surgical procedure to remove two bowel polyps. Organised by Cancer Research UK, the advert aims to show the positive impact research has had in helping to treat cancer.

Endoscopy tests, such as a colonoscopy, are key diagnostic tests for bowel cancer. They can detect cancer at the earliest stage of the disease, when it is more treatable, as well as prevent cancer through the removal of polyps during the test.  Polyps are non-cancerous growths but if left untreated may develop into cancer over time. More than nine out of ten people diagnosed with stage 1 bowel cancer survive five years or more after diagnosis. However this drops significantly as the disease develops.

The TV ad shines a light on colonoscopies but it also highlights the challenges endoscopy services face across the UK as Asha Kaur, Policy Manager at Bowel Cancer UK points out:

“We know that demand for endoscopy services is set to double over the next five years with reports estimating that nearly a million more tests are needed year on year. Yet there is a serious lack of capacity within endoscopy units to meet this demand. This is having a detrimental impact on waiting times. This is not good news, patients need to be seen quickly to have the best chance of being diagnosed at an early stage of bowel cancer when it is more treatable. Many people across the UK are waiting too long between being referred and having their test. Without adequate capacity to meet this demand, patients will be kept waiting for crucial diagnostic tests.

“The Implementation Plan for the Cancer Strategy announced that Health Education England would develop an action plan to address current capacity issues in cancer services by September 2016, but is yet to materialise. Many of the recommendations outlined in the England Cancer Strategy could, if implemented, improve access to diagnostic tests but the success of these recommendations rests on having the workforce in place to deliver it. We are concerned that without the investment many of these recommendations will fail to be delivered and that ultimately this will cost lives.

“An increase in symptomatic patients, the introduction of new screening tests and an ageing population means this problem is only set to get worse.  We would urge Health Education England to publish this plan and urgently address the demand and capacity deficit as a priority.”

Read more about our work on diagnosing bowel cancer early