Impact of the United Kingdom national bowel cancer awareness campaigns 2012 on colorectal cancer services and patient survival

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Abstract

Aim

The UK national bowel cancer awareness campaigns in 2012 were intended to improve survival of patients with colorectal cancer (CRC) by raising public awareness and prompting symptomatic individuals to seek medical attention early. The aim of the present study was to compare the number of CRCs diagnosed, tumour stage at diagnosis, survival and number of investigations performed during the campaigns compared with a similar time period in 2011.

Method

A retrospective study was carried out of 1439 consecutive referrals through the 2-week wait pathway (2WW) to our colorectal unit during the February and September 2012 campaigns. Patient demographics, number of referrals, investigations performed and newly diagnosed cases of CRC with their respective staging were determined and compared with a group in 2011. Two-year survival was evaluated by Kaplan–Meier statistics.

Results

Referrals through the 2WW increased by 55–60% and endoscopic and the number of radiological investigations performed increased by over 70% during the awareness campaigns. Although new diagnoses of CRC nearly doubled, the increase in the patients referred meant the diagnostic yield remained low at 6%. The bowel cancer awareness campaigns did not alter the tumour stage at presentation, as over 50% of patients were diagnosed with Stage 3 and 4 CRC and there was no significant difference in 2-year survival.

Conclusion

The UK bowel cancer awareness campaigns appear to have improved public awareness of CRC and encouraged symptomatic individuals to seek urgent medical attention. The increase in 2WW referrals has not translated into better survival for symptomatic patients, partly due to the proportion presenting with advanced disease.

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