For patients with bowel cancer, screening may extend survival despite late stage diagnosis

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According to a new study published in the British Journal of Cancer, patients with late stage bowel cancer whose disease is diagnosed through screening may have a better prognosis compared with those whose late stage bowel cancer is diagnosed after symptoms develop.


Researchers from the University of Leeds in Leeds, England, and Durham University in Durham, England, identified more than 300 patients diagnosed with bowel cancer through screening and approximately 200 patients that had negative fecal occult blood testing (FOBT) but developed symptoms before their next scheduled test two years later.


The researchers found no difference in overall survival or mortality rates for patients with early stage bowel cancer diagnosed through screening compared with patients diagnosed from symptoms; however, patients with late stage disease diagnosed through screening had a significantly increased survival compared with those diagnosed from symptoms after negative FOBT. The researchers acknowledge the bias created from the lead-time. Because patients' cancers are detected earlier through screening, their lifespan may appear to be extended even though it may not be.


According to the American Cancer Society, bowel or colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States.

For patients with bowel cancer, screening may extend survival despite late stage diagnosis
Late stage bowel cancer who are diagnosed through screening may have a better prognosis.

Although bowel cancer screening usually detects cancer at an earlier stage, new research indicates that when screening detects a late stage cancer patients may be more likely to survive than those whose late stage cancer is only diagnosed after developing symptoms.

The study, published today (Wednesday) in the British Journal of Cancer, follows earlier research from the same team that suggested patients with screen detected bowel cancers could have a better chance of beating the disease because screening generally picks up cancers at an earlier stage when treatment is more likely to be effective.

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