02/12/2015 05:25 GMT | Updated 01/12/2016 05:12 GMT

We Now Have an Opportunity to Make Bowel Cancer a Rare Cancer Killer

Positive improvements are happening all the time in bowel cancer diagnosis, treatment and care. But we need to do better. It's staggering that bowel cancer stubbornly remains the UK's second biggest cancer killer.

Survival rates for bowel cancer are lower in the UK than in many other European countries and there is variation in the quality of care, depending on where you're treated.

But we know that bowel cancer can be beaten if we - the NHS, government, doctors, nurses, health professionals, charities, scientists, researchers, and even the public - act now to diagnose more people early and deliver the best possible care and treatment.

When diagnosed at an early stage, more than 9 out of 10 people survive for five years or more. At a late stage, this drops to less than 1 in 10. There is currently a huge variation in early diagnosis rates throughout the NHS. If every region's early diagnosis rates were as good as the best, then 9,000 lives would be saved by 2020.

Our shared goal is simply based on all areas of the NHS delivering what the best is already achieving.

As well as improving survival rates, we need better support for people with bowel cancer before, during and after treatment. It's not just about how long people live but how well they live, including at the end of their lives.

At Beating Bowel Cancer, we've launched ambitions for bowel cancer over the next five years in our report Bowel cancer: a vision for 2020. We surveyed over 1,000 people affected by bowel cancer and worked with a number of organisations to help produce our vision.

We've set out five key ambitions:

One million more people screened - screening saves lives as it helps to detect the early stages of bowel cancer, often before any symptoms are showing.

No one with symptoms turned away - early diagnosis means symptoms need to be spotted and invested promptly.

Best treatment for every patient - along with later diagnosis, less effective treatment is the other major cause of poorer bowel cancer survival rates.

More bowel cancer nurses - specialist bowel cancer nurses make a vital difference to treatment and care.

Support for everyone after treatment - the impact of bowel cancer doesn't end when treatment stops, with many people left with pain, exhaustion, anxiety and other issues.

In the report we detail how these ambitions can become a reality if we all work together. Achieving these goals needs investment, at a time when the NHS is facing serious financial pressure. The government made a commitment in its election manifesto to provide world-leading cancer services - and that will require funding.

Delivering these ambitions can also save money. For example: If every Clinical Commissioning Group in England achieved the same level of early diagnosis as the current best, it would save the NHS £34 million in treatment costs. That's enough to fund 950 clinical nurse specialists for a year.

We need to see more analysis of the cost-benefits of taking action to beat bowel cancer. Those whose lives are saved will continue to be productive members of society. Better treatments will keep patients in work for longer, improving their own well-being and allowing them to continue to contribute.

We have an opportunity to make bowel cancer a rare cancer killer, with more lives saved and ensure better care for every bowel cancer patient. To make this a reality we need to work together.

To read the full report, visit our website