New BDRF research aims to improve care for people whose rectal cancer is caught late or has come back after surgery.

Of the 14,000 people diagnosed with rectal cancer in the UK each year, up to 10% will have locally advanced disease. This means the tumour is so large it has spread beyond the bowel wall.

A further 10% will see their cancer return after an operation to remove it. It is a shattering diagnosis to receive, but thanks to research the outlook for people in this situation is getting better.

Treatment for this advanced and recurrent disease is extremely complicated. It requires co-operation between specialists from different disciplines to deliver personalised care. Usually this means a combination of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and major surgery.

Unfortunately, there is huge variation around the country in the pathways patients are put on. Different facilities are available in different places,  so many patients are adversely affected by a postcode lottery. Tragically, we fear that because of these disparities many people are not referred to specialist services that would give them the best chance of survival.

The IMPACT audit has been launched to give us a clear picture of what services are available and where. It will map patients’ care pathways in different hospitals. From this, we’ll be able to see where outcomes are good and where they need improvement. Ultimately, we want to see more patients with advanced and recurrent rectal cancer referred to the most appropriate centres. This would increase the number of people surviving for more than 5 years after such a devastating diagnosis.

Abi Vallance, joint lead investigator for the study, said:

“The treatment of advanced rectal cancer can involve several types of treatment and a range of healthcare professionals. Patients should expect to receive equally good care regardless of where in the UK they live. We are delighted that BDRF is backing the IMPACT audit, which will establish current treatment across the UK for patients with advanced rectal cancer. We will be able to compare services and highlight any deficiencies, with important implications for patient care”

This study is crucial to improving people’s chances of long term survival after what is a shattering diagnosis. BDRF is supporting the work because we exist to develop clinical practice to improve and save people’s lives.

We rely on the support of people like you to do it. To support this work and our other groundbreaking studies, please make a donation today.

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