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The dynamics of colorectal cancer management in 17 countries

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This paper discusses the current care management arrangements for colorectal cancer (CRC) in 16 OECD countries plus the Russian Federation by analysing data sources, the uptake of screening and surveillance, the available capacity in endoscopy services, the treatment pathways in medical treatment, as well as the type and availability of pharmaceutical care. The paper highlights significant variations in practice across the 17 countries. Common themes emerge from each of these practices and standards in terms of political interest in policies and awareness of CRC (both of which need to be enhanced), affordability (in terms of scarcity of resources in some countries and out-of-pocket payments for parts of the overall treatment process), access (in terms of the significant variation that has been observed within and across countries with regard to diagnostics, treatment and certain pharmaceuticals) and quality of CRC services (which may arise due to variations in treatment and pharmaceutical guidelines as well as minimal monitoring). When considering policy options for the future, it is important to, first, improve data collection both within as well as across countries through international co-operation; second, it is critical to have greater national and international support for cancer screening activities proven to be effective and cost-effective; third, endoscopy capacity in individual countries needs to be improved, also allowing more choice to ensure timely diagnosis, regardless of screening activities; fourth, public and political awareness needs to be enhanced as it is the key to improving CRC outcomes; fifth, where appropriate, to give consideration to the principles of equity, human dignity and disease severity, among others, when deciding on the uptake of new (targeted) treatments, rather than base decisions solely on cost-effectiveness criteria; and sixth, to firm up national guidelines including screening, diagnosis, treatment, pharmaceutical treatments and surveillance, with a view to enhancing their timeliness, evidence-base and free access to all.

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