Introduction and overview

Introduction and overview

This quality standard covers the diagnosis and management of adults (18 years and older) with newly diagnosed and recurring adenocarcinoma of the colon and rectum. It includes diagnosis of suspected colorectal cancer, staging of the disease, management of both local and metastatic disease, and follow-up and regular surveillance for those free from disease after treatment. For more information see the scope for this quality standard.


Colorectal cancer covers cancerous growths in the colon (colon cancer) and rectum (rectal cancer). Most colorectal cancers arise from adenomatous polyps. These neoplasms are usually benign, but some develop into cancer over time. The occurrence of colorectal cancer is strongly related to age, with 83% of cases arising in people who are 60 years or older.

This quality standard describes markers of high-quality, cost-effective care that, when delivered collectively, should contribute to improving the effectiveness, safety and experience of care for people with colorectal cancer in the following ways:

  • Preventing people from dying prematurely.

  • Enhancing quality of life for people with long-term conditions.

  • Helping people to recover from episodes of ill health or following injury.

  • Ensuring that people have a positive experience of care.

  • Treating and caring for people in a safe environment and protecting them from avoidable harm.

These overarching outcomes are from The NHS Outcomes Framework 2012/13.


The quality standard for colorectal cancer requires that services should be commissioned from and coordinated across all relevant agencies encompassing the whole colorectal cancer care pathway. An integrated approach to provision of services is fundamental to the delivery of high-quality care to adults with colorectal cancer.