Statistics and information on bowel disease and the impact of these conditions in UK, internationally and how St. Mark's Hospital helps...

Bowel Cancer

Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK: more than 100 people are told every day that they have this disease. However, improvements have continued to be made during the last 40 years. This is demonstrated by the fact that the number of people cured and alive five years after diagnosis has more than doubled.

The National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme has successfully helped to capture many more people with early stage cancer. The St Mark’s Bowel Cancer Screening Centre, which opened in 2006, looks after a population of approximately 1 million people across four regions in London. Read about some of the exciting new, minimally invasive techniques that have been developed at St Mark’s Hospital for this group of patients by clicking here.

Despite initiatives such as the National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme, 1 in 3 patients only approach their doctor about their symptoms when the cancer has already spread. In the past the available treatments have been extremely limited and patients would only live for a few months whilst their symptoms were controlled.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is the umbrella term for the chronic conditions Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Both cause severe inflammation in the digestive tract, Crohn’s disease anywhere from the mouth to the anus and ulcerative colitis in the colon. Patients are often managed with a combination of medical therapy and surgery. Unfortunately, approximately 70% of patients with Crohn’s disease and 30%  of patients with ulcerative colitis will require surgery at least once during their lifetime.

In the UK, it is estimated that 300,000 people suffer from IBD. This is 1 in every 210 people. Unfortunately, the number of new cases reported a year is said to be between 3,000 and 6,000.

IBD occurs most commonly in youth and affects growth, schooling, work, relationships and fertility. Patients may be troubled by crippling abdominal pain, bloody diarrhoea and weight loss. They may also suffer from joint pains, skin lesions, eye symptoms and tiredness.

There is no cure, only treatments to keep the disease at bay. Available treatments include strong, long-term medications. Unfortunately these medications carry extensive side effects and are not always successful. Indeed, the majority (70%) of patients with Crohn’s disease and up to 30% of patients with Ulcerative Colitis will need to have surgery on their bowel at some point in their lives owing to the inadequacies of current medical therapy.

The cause of IBD is not completely understood and until we have a better understanding we will not be able to treat this devastating disease properly. We know that genes, the immune system, diet and the bugs in the bowel are all important, and so these are our areas of focus at St Mark’s.

Sadly, there are many more types of bowel afflictions that cause debilitating and chronic symptoms for people all around the world. These include incontinence and irritable bowel syndrome. It is our hope that the suffering endured by patients may be lessened through basic and translational research, investment in first rate technology, sharing best practice and awareness-raising.

The IBD Department at St Mark’s is led by Consultant Gastroenterologist, Professor Ailsa Hart. Professor Hart is highly regarded in her field and she manages a team of well-authored, very well respected research fellows and nurses. To read more about the Centre for IBD and Bowel Regeneration and Rehabilitation, click here.