Many bowel cancer patients do not get medical help until it is too late, figures show.
One in five is admitted as an emergency, presenting with severe and potentially life-threatening conditions, according to the National Bowel Cancer Audit.
Of 29,000 bowel cancer patients diagnosed in England and Wales between 2010 and 2011, 21.2% were admitted as an emergency.
Nearly a third of these were not suitable for surgical intervention, meaning that their cancer was already too advanced to be operated on, according to the data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC). Of those who were operated on, 11.9% died within 90 days of surgery.
Nigel Scott, audit clinical lead and consultant colorectal surgeon at the Royal Preston Hospital, said: "Bowel cancer emergency admissions are a persistent and very significant health problem.
"Symptom awareness campaigns are useful to break down the taboos of bottoms and bowels that lock these symptoms behind the bathroom door. But emergency surgery continues to be the Cinderella of surgical practice in the UK.
"A recent survey of surgeons highlighted that the NHS pressures currently work against emergency cases, with 55% of surgeons describing inadequate emergency theatre access. Only 15% of emergency surgeons have a comprehensive interventional radiology service out of hours and this deficiency has a major detrimental effect on the use of colonic stenting for the emergency colorectal cancer admission."
Bowel Cancer: Lifestyle Changes You Can Make To Prevent Risks
Find out what you can do to help prevent yourself against bowel cancer.
Try to do 150 minutes (two and a half hours) of moderate exercise over a week in bouts of 10 minutes or more. You can do this by carrying out 30 minutes on at least five days each week.
Drink... In Moderation
Drink alcohol in moderation - no more than two to three units a day for women and three to four units a day for men.
Boost Your Vitamin D
Getting enough vitamin D may reduce your risk of developing a number of cancers, including bowel cancer - although more research needs to be done to be certain. Vitamin D is produced naturally by your body when your skin is exposed to sunlight and can also be obtained from some foods, such as oily fish.
Smokers are 25% more likely to die from bowel cancer than people who had never smoked. If you smoke - quit now.
The figures from the audit also show that overall the proportion of bowel cancer patients who die following major surgery has fallen for the fourth consecutive year.
In 2010/11, 5.1% of patients had died 90 days on after their operation, compared with 6.4% in 2007/08. But campaigners said that more needs to be done to raise awareness about the disease.
Mark Flannagan, chief executive of charity Beating Bowel Cancer, said: "It is encouraging to see that overall care for bowel cancer patients is largely improving but there are still unacceptable variations in the level of treatment across the board.
"Of big concern is that too many people are being diagnosed as emergency cases. All too often worries and embarrassment mean that too many people aren't aware of the symptoms or they delay seeking help until it's too late and they need emergency surgery when their bowel cancer is at a more advanced stage.
"Much still needs to be done to tackle public attitudes to and understanding of the disease if we are to break the taboo that is bowel cancer."
Public Health Minister Anna Soubry said: "It is encouraging that bowel cancer survival is increasing but numbers being first diagnosed via A&E are concerning.
"We want to help the NHS diagnose bowel cancer much earlier by raising public awareness of the symptoms and supporting GPs to assess people more effectively. Our work to help GPs includes giving them better access to key tests for patients."
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The Best Cancer-Fighting Foods
Carrots are rich in beta-carotene, a super strong antioxidant that helps keep stomach, prostate and lung cancer away.
Cabbages contain cancer-fighting indole-3-carbinol, which are said to help ward off cancer. Brocolli is a well-known cancer busting vegetable as its glucoraphanin enzyme protects the body from rectum and colon cancer.
Containing a rich source of antioxidant lycopene, they protect the body from various cancer cells, plus it's also packed with vitamin C, which helps strengthen the body's immune system.
Garlic isn't just a great way to flavor our food, but it's a clever way of incorporating a cancer-busting food into our diet. Garlic is proven to boost immunity, which helps our body fight against nasty cancerous cells. Chives, leeks and onions are also part of the allium vegetable group, which help reduce the risks of stomach, colon and prostate cancer.
Flax seeds contain a strong antioxidants called ligans which help keep cells healthy and safe from cancerous cells. They also contain Omega-3, which are believed to prevent colon cancer.
Rated as one fo the highest antioxidant foods, blueberries keep the body's cells healthy and full of oxygen, warding off cancerous cells attacking.