Bowel cancer

Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK. Each year more than 41,500 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer – more than 110 people every day in the UK. It is the second most common cause of cancer death after lung cancer in the UK*.

Bowel cancer is one of the most curable cancers if detected early. Five-year survival rates for bowel cancer have doubled over the last 30 years, thanks to greater awareness and earlier detection of the disease, and improving treatment.

With optimal treatment and surgery, more cures are possible with bowel cancer than with all the other internal cancers added together.

However too many people, 6 in 10 patients,  still die from bowel cancer its liver metastases.  There is more that has to be done to make bowel cancer treatment more precise and more patients suitable for curative surgery for liver metastases.

Patients diagnosed with early disease are nearly twice as likely to surive adn therefore we have to encourage more screening and treatment for early disease.

Watch an interview with Professor Bill Heald CBE talking about bowel cancer surgery.

Pelican Cancer Foundation aims to save and improve the lives of those with bowel cancer by improving treatment. It achieves this by researching, developing and disseminating advances in precision treatment, especially surgery, for bowel cancers.

The charity was founded by Professor Bill Heald, a consultant colorectal surgeon who pioneered a surgical technique for bowel cancer called Total Mesorectal Excision (TME). This technique cuts cancer deaths dramatically, halving the chance of the cancer recurring. Also, as fewer people need permanent colostomies, patients can enjoy a better quality of life after surgery.

To achieve its aims, Pelican has undertaken a national professional development programme that has trained surgeons and cancer teams in TME and ‘best practice’ for the treatment of bowel cancer. Today, Pelican is a ‘centre of excellence’ for sharing life-saving, life-enhancing knowledge and skills with future generations of surgeons and cancer teams.

The charity also undertakes clinical research that informs and improves bowel cancer treatment today.

  • Over 8,000 specialists have attended courses and meetings at Pelican’s training facility since 2001 – the vast majority discussing TME and the effective multi-disciplinary team (MDT) approach to bowel cancer treatment. Over the same period, bowel cancer death rates in the UK have dropped by around 17%.
  • TME has become the ‘gold standard’ in lower bowel surgery – helping over 3000 additional people survive their cancer diagnosis each year in the UK alone.
  • Pelican’s first major research study, MERCURY, demonstrated the advantages of using MRI images of the pelvis before surgery to plan the best treatment - giving patients the very best chance of successful curative surgery.

Pelican continues to provide challenging and popular courses for clinicians, convened by our expert faculty, to drive improvements in bowel cancer treatment.

  • Pelican has run two major national development programmes for bowel cancer multi disciplinary teams: teh MDT TME programme informed clinicians about precise staging and bowel cancer surgery and the LOREC helped teams develop their local treatment for low rectal cancer.
  • In 2016 Pelican will run SPECC, a national development programme on Significant Polyps and Early Colorectal Cancer for bowel cancer multi-disciplinary teams.  This is a free programme for all teams in England and Wales which will take just over two years to deliver across the country.
  • As a follow-up to our MERCURY research, Pelican is funding MERCURY II, the Low Rectal Cancer Study, which is assessing if MRI scanning can predict how far very low rectal tumours have spread. This study won the BMJ Imaging Team of the Year in 2015.

Pelican’s ambition is to ensure the most effective treatment for each individual with bowel cancer. We aim to refine treatment options so that every person with bowel cancer is given the best possible chance of living well, for longer. One of our biggest challenges today is to raise funds for our programme of work.

*Statistics provided by Cancer Research UK