Bowel Cancer Diagnoses

A new study has revealed that bowel cancer diagnoses dropped by a staggering 40% during the pandemic. This isn’t a sign that the disease is becoming less prevalent; instead, it may signal a worrying number of cases that are going untreated.

Those who have been diagnosed with the condition in the last couple of years have mostly been older adults with an advanced stage of cancer. Here, we’ll look at the findings of the new study and why getting an early diagnosis is important.

What did the new bowel cancer screening study find?

The new study carried out in Spain, compared pre-pandemic and first-year COVID data from multiple hospitals. Before the pandemic, data showed that there were 1,385 bowel cancer cases diagnosed. In the first year of the pandemic, however, this dropped to 517 cases.

There was also a significant drop in the number of colonoscopies carried out. Before the pandemic, 24,860 colonoscopies were performed, compared to just 17,337 in the first year of COVID. It was also revealed that those who were diagnosed during the pandemic were older, had more complications, and were at a more advanced stage of the disease.

The reduction in bowel cancer diagnosis is down to the suspension of important screening services; colonoscopy services being reduced or suspended; less efficiency due to COVID protocols, and patients were less likely to present to their doctors with symptoms.

Although these findings are taken from Spanish hospitals, the same problem is also occurring in the UK. The number of potential cases that have gone undiagnosed is worrying. The fact that the disease is also only being detected during its late stages is also a concern.

Why is it so important to get an early bowel cancer diagnosis?

Bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in the UK. When caught in the later stages, it can be challenging to treat. Although the prognosis for advanced bowel cancer patients has improved in recent years, chances of survival are greatly reduced during its advanced stage.

Getting an early diagnosis can literally mean the difference between life and death. There are many treatment options available these days, giving patients the best chance of recovery. The longer a cancer is left to spread, the harder it becomes to fight.

Recognising the symptoms of bowel cancer

In order for patients to get a quick diagnosis, it helps to be aware of the symptoms. The most common bowel cancer symptoms include:

  • Blood in your stools
  • A lump or pain within the abdomen
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Unexplained prolonged changes in bowel movements

The above symptoms can also link to other, less serious conditions. For this reason, it is easy for bowel cancer to go unrecognised until it is in its later stages. To rule out bowel cancer, you should always get the above symptoms checked out as quickly as possible.

The fact that so many cases of bowel cancer have gone undiagnosed during the pandemic is extremely worrying. If you have symptoms of bowel cancer, it is important to see your GP. If bowel cancer is diagnosed, you can seek treatment from a specialist as soon as possible.