The number of patients with bowel cancer admitted to hospital as an emergency case has stayed level over the last four years, remaining at a "stubborn" 21%-22%, or one in five patients.

The finding, from the National Bowel Cancer Audit, is particularly pertinent given the importance of early disease detection to treatment outcomes and survival.

This is highlighted by the fact that patients with too advanced cancer to benefit from surgery had a much poorer survival rate, with only roughly two of five surviving for two years, compared to four out five for those who did undergo surgery.

Of those admitted as an emergency case and able to have surgery, the 90-day survival rate post operation was also lower, with about one in seven not surviving the period, researchers said.

Mark Flannagan, Chief Executive of Beating Bowel Cancer, noted that the fact there hasn't been any improvement in recent years in people diagnosed with bowel cancer as an emergency is "a major concern." 

"More needs to be done to educate both the public and GPs about the symptoms of bowel cancer and how vital it is to catch it early,” he said.

On the upside, figures from the National Bowel Cancer Audit did show that, overall, post-operative survival is at "an all-time high", with 95.5% alive after 90 days compared to 94.7% in 2010/11 and 93.9% in 2008/09.