The global prevalence of colorectal (bowel) cancer is increasing while it remains the second most common type of cancer in Europe.
Key factors in controlling bowel cancer – smoking cessation, early diagnosis and timely drug interventions – are lacking in many parts of the world, according to the European organisation EuropaColon.
Even in the UK, the cost of treatment is an issue: NICE rejected three drugs for late-stage bowel cancer in November 2011 on grounds of cost-effectiveness.
EuropaColon, an umbrella organisation dedicated to fighting bowel cancer in Europe, noted that the disease causes about 230,000 deaths in Europe each year.
The incidence of bowel cancer is lower in Eastern than in Western Europe, but is increasing in the former countries due to the prevalence of smoking and obesity combined with poor access to diagnosis and treatment.
The prevalence of obesity in developed countries is also maintaining a high incidence of bowel cancer.
However, the available treatment options of surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy mean that bowel cancer can be cured in over 90% of cases if diagnosed early.
During March, declared European Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, public awareness of bowel cancer prevention and treatment will be raised by a widespread campaign uniting government, the media and the medical professions.
In the UK, NICE has recommended six drugs for bowel cancer, but in November 2011 it issued final draft guidance not recommending the use of Erbitux, Avastin and Vectibix for treatment of metastatic bowel cancer, on grounds of cost.
“It is alarming to see CRC incidence and death numbers rising at high speed in many European countries, whilst decreasing in others, reflecting the differences in screening and treatment in Europe in a dramatic way,” commented Jola Gore-Booth, Founder and CEO of EuropaColon.
“The activities during ECCAM undertaken by our local organisations help to inform more people across Europe about prevention, screening and access to best treatment and care. We call on politicians, clinicians, industry and media to support these initiatives in order to save lives from this threatening disease.”