Thousands of people in England are dying from bowel cancer because their disease is not being identified early enough, a leading charity has warned.

Research carried out by Beating Bowel Cancer has revealed a wide variation in the diagnosis of bowel cancer across the UK with findings indicating that, in some parts of the UK, less than a third of bowel cancer cases are detected before the cancer has advanced and spread around the body.

Bowel cancer patients diagnosed at an advanced stage have a 7% chance of surviving for five years, compared with a 97% chance of survival for those where the cancer is detected at the earliest possible stage.

In the UK, around 41,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year. The charity estimates that if all NHS regions performed as well as the best performing areas, around 3,200 lives could be saved each year.

Roberta Pyle, a senior medical negligence solicitor based in Thompsons Solicitors’ Newcastle office, said: “With any type of cancer, including bowel cancer, early diagnosis is a crucial factor in a patient's prognosis.

“Under the previous government the NHS and cancer services have suffered short-sighted, senseless budget cuts. People are left to play a post code lottery because in certain parts of the country survival rates are better due to earlier diagnosis.

“From working with victims of cancer misdiagnosis and delays in diagnosis we understand the devastating consequences it can have on a patient and their loved ones. It is absolutely fundamental that proper investment is put into the NHS under the next government to ensure that staff levels are sufficient in order to be able to offer patients the best diagnostic services, no matter where they live.”