Two years ago, as the world locked down against COVID-19, it was hard to see past the immediate impact and how the pandemic would cause shockwaves through all areas of healthcare for years to come. NHS waiting list figures are a stark reminder of the reality – as of the end of December 2021, there were 6.1 million patients on waiting lists, with ~312K waiting over one year for treatment including 20K waiting over two years. Our NHS frontline heroes continue to do their best in tackling the backlog of procedures, but they need the full support of the healthcare industry to ensure patients that desperately need access to care, are receiving it.
April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month, and like many other disease areas, it has also suffered the impact of COVID-19. Every 15 minutes somebody is diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK, that's nearly 43,000 people each year. Yet Since 2019, the average number of people waiting longer than six weeks for endoscopy has increased by almost six times and there's also a hidden backlog of people yet to be seen, with thousands of fewer bowel cancers diagnosed compared to pre-pandemic times. Recent figures published by NHS England show that over half of the people that were urgently referred for bowel cancer investigation were waiting longer than 29 days for diagnosisi.
The effect of increased waiting times for patients can result in a more complex cancer diagnosis and increases the need for complex surgery which in turn can increase the risk of additional surgical complications including anastomotic leaks. The consequences of a leak during surgery are enormous - reducing 5-year overall survival to as little as 33.3%.
In addition, anastomotic leaks increase direct healthcare costs on average by approx. €35,000 per patient, compared to treatment costs for patients without anastomotic leaks.
It’s a vicious cycle with significant consequences for patients, HCPs, and the health service as a whole and one that we must prioritise tackling. My team and I at Ethicon are committed to supporting our healthcare heroes in their formidable efforts to recover from the impact the pandemic has left behind, and eradicating complications so that patients can recover sooner from surgery too. Our new Colorectal NEXT program provides services & solutions to support the Colorectal specialty. You can find out more here.
Bowel Cancer is the UK’s second-biggest cancer killer, despite early diagnosis making it possible to save almost everyone who is diagnosed. Shockingly, Bowel Cancer UK released statistics that show nearly half (45%) of the UK cannot name any symptoms of the UK’s second-biggest cancer killerii.
Raising awareness of the symptoms of Bowel Cancer to patients is not only the first but possibly the most important tool to equip them for the best chances of survival. Bowel Cancer UK has some fantastic resources and information to help educate on the symptoms to watch out for and when to see a GP.
Throughout this month, the Ethicon team is fundraising for Bowel Cancer UK as part of the Step up for 30 challenge (exercising for 30 minutes every day) to raise funds to help them continue in their mission to save lives and improve the quality of life of everyone affected by bowel cancer.
Raising awareness takes minimal effort but can have a huge life-saving impact on patients to ensure they can access the treatment they need as quickly as possible.