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Why is early diagnosis important?

Thousands of people beat cancer every year.

Doing so is easier when cancer’s diagnosed at an early stage as treatment is often simpler and more likely to be effective. So finding cancer early can make a real difference.

Sometimes, people put off seeing their doctor because they’re worried about what the doctor might find. But it’s important to bear in mind that advances in the way cancer is diagnosed and treated have led to real improvements over the years.

  • The number of people who die from cancer has been falling overall.
  • Half the people diagnosed with cancer today will still be alive in five years’ time. And more than 40% will still be alive in ten years’ time. The average ten-year survival rate for cancer has doubled over the past 30 years.
  • For many types of cancer, including prostate cancer and melanoma skin cancer the number of people who survive has improved greatly.
  • Death rates from three of the UK’s most common cancers - breast, bowel and male lung cancer - have dropped to their lowest level for almost 40 years.
  • More than nine out of ten men with testicular cancer are now effectively cured.
  • And now more than three quarters of children with cancer survive, compared with only a quarter back in the 60s.
  • Even for those cancers where survival overall is poor, the chances of surviving are better the earlier the stage at which the cancer’s diagnosed.

So if you notice anything unusual about your body, or have one of the warning signs or symptoms, it’s really important to talk to your doctor about it. It may not be anything to worry about, in which case you’ll have nothing to lose. But if it’s something serious, you could have everything to gain.

You can find out more about the evidence behind early diagnosis in our How do we know? section.

For more about our progress and achievements, visit our Cancer and Research section.

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Question about cancer? Contact our information nurse team
Updated: 25 September 2009