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Bowel or colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer across the world and is responsible for the second highest number of deaths in the UK due to cancer. Over the past 40 years, advances in medicine and technology have meant that more and more people are surviving bowel cancer or living with it. This has led to bowel cancer being considered a long term condition which requires care that goes beyond initial diagnosis and treatment.

There are great economic costs associated with better diagnosis, treatment options and increased survival rates. These go beyond the costs for the health and care providers in terms of diagnosing bowel cancer, treating it and providing ongoing clinical care, to include the costs for families and patients with bowel cancer such as loss of earnings and also the cost implications for the wider society such as long-term social care.

Data is needed to understand better the economic cost of colorectal cancer on society in order to help inform policy makers on how best to allocate health funding. Although data is available, it is limited and often relies upon clinical trial data which is often not a true reflection of real life populations and often means that longer term outcomes are not observed.

What did we do?

A review of all existing research on the health economic implications of bowel cancer published between 2009 and 2019 was undertaken to identify the contribution of administrative data, data that are routinely collected as part of a person’s interaction with health services, towards understanding the economic impact of bowel cancer and its treatment.

What did we find?

Thirty-seven relevant studies were identified in the review of all existing literature.

These studies recognised the contribution that analysis of administrative data has made to assessing the prevalence of bowel cancer, the use and effectiveness of different treatments and the direct cost effectiveness for health services of interventions such as screening and early diagnosis.  However,  the paper also recognised that most current research has been on limited numbers of patient records and little research has been done to link this data with wider indirect cost data from other sources such as social care and employment and tax records and also that the impacts on quality of life are rarely quantified.

The paper proposes that Scotland is in a prime position to carry out this more comprehensive research due to its data sharing and data linkage infrastructure.

Project outputs

Publication Elizabeth Lemmon, Catherine R Hanna, Peter Hall, Eva J A Morris Health Economics Studies of Colorectal Cancer and the Contribution of Administrative Data: A Systematic Review European Journal of Cancer Care