An operation could increase the chances of survival five-fold for patients with bowel cancer that has spread to the liver, a study reveals.
Where the cancer is operable, survival rates are boosted dramatically, but not all people will be able to benefit from surgery as it is not always possible.
For people with stage four cancer that has spread to the liver, only 9% will survive for five years or more if they do not have surgery.
But the new study from the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) shows that liver resection - removing the cancerous part of the liver and a small part of healthy tissue around it - can boost this five-year survival to 46%.
This means patients with stage four disease have similar survival rates as people with stage three disease - before the cancer has spread - who have a 48% chance of surviving the five-year period.
The surgery has now become the gold standard across the UK for patients with this type of cancer.
Lead author Dr Eva Morris, a Cancer Research UK scientist from the University of Leeds, said: “This surgery is very skilled and should be undertaken by expert surgeons working in specialist liver units.
“We must work towards ensuring that all patients who need liver resections can access these services.”
The study, published in the British Journal of Surgery, followed more than 114,000 people who had undergone surgery for bowel cancer and more than 3,000 who also had liver resections.