Colorectal Cancer (CRC) impacts on every part of the healthcare system. If a solution can be found to the challenges associated with CRC then they can probably be found for dealing with many other chronic and complex conditions.
- CRC is one of the commonest malignancies in the developed world and often presents too late for curative treatment.
- It may be related to a poor diet and is associated with obesity. The incidence is rising.
- The vast majority of CRCs present with embarrassing symptoms.
- Such symptoms are common and are also features of benign disease. People find it difficult to decide when they should see a doctor.
- They often choose to consult other than a medical practitioner and there is evidence for procrastination and for inconsistent advice from the other healthcare providers.
- [We need tools to assist those healthcare providers to signpost people to a doctor. Such tools need to fit seamlessly into their way of working]
- The investigation of lower bowel symptoms are invasive and involve unpleasant intimate examinations.
- Men are more likely to delay consulting a doctor than women.
- [We need to understand why that is and what we might be able to do about it.]
- Eventually anyone who develops CRC has to visit a doctor occasionally as an emergency. Symptoms may not correlate to the severity of the disease.
- Those at highest risk of cancer are older people with lots of other problems.
- They are all referred to a surgeon. Sometimes the diagnosis is delayed longer than it need be.
- The treatment of CRC may include surgery, chemotherapy and or radiotherapy. Most people survive.
- In a typical group of people treated for CRC a large proportion will develop long term side effects.
- After treatment most patients will attend a specialist clinic briefly once a year, they will have unmet needs.
- All patients will visit their GP/Family physician/Primary Care Practitioner more often than that mainly about their other problems.
- We know the sorts of problems they present to their GP.
- We also know that there are many problems or concerns that the patient does not voice to their GP and that treatment for CRC diminishes quality of life.
- Primary Care Practitioners have the skills and resources to help people in these circumstances although they might need some additional guidance.
- [We need a tool to help patients focus on these side effects and help them present this information to their GP.]
- We need a tool that does not require fundamental reform of the healthcare system.
[A team of PhD students is working to fill in the blanks- their expertise will give us the capacity to focus on other such conditions]
In developing this program for innovation they worked with people who have been closely affected by this condition. They worked quickly, economically, creatively and in partnership with the healthcare practitioners involved in responding to the needs of patients and their families. Their work is beginning to be published.