Nearly half of cancers in England are diagnosed at an advanced stage, when they are harder to treat successfully. There are a number of reasons why this might be, but there are many chances for cancer to be picked up earlier. Diagnosing cancer at its earliest stages is crucial to give patients the best chance of survival.
It’s important the Government continues to support campaigns across the UK, such as Be Clear on Cancer (BCOC) in England; to raise public awareness of the signs and symptoms of cancer and encourage people to seek help promptly.
For example, during the national BCOC lung campaign 700 extra patients were diagnosed with lung cancer, and 300 more people received potentially life-saving surgery when comparing the campaign period with the same time in the previous year.
Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, and for patients who are diagnosed at the earliest stage of the disease, it really does make a difference: 9 in 10 survive at least five years. But fewer than 1 in 10 people who develop bowel cancer are diagnosed at the earliest stage.
We want the Government to ask local areas to increase the uptake of bowel screening by at least 10%, and to provide good quality information on risks and benefits to help people make an informed decision.
A re-think of the system is needed to find new ways for us to diagnose cancer at an earlier stage. We need primary care and other health professionals to be supported in their roles within the system, enabling them to get access to diagnostic tests for their patients without barriers. There needs to be enough flexibility in the system so that doctors can refer patients for tests when they may not fit all of the guidelines.
Live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland?
Our team works on devolved issues across all the nations, and we believe MPs in devolved nations have an important role to play. We are asking them to encourage elected colleagues in devolved nations to support our key campaign policies. In addition, devolved MPs’ support for all our work helps keep cancer top of the agenda and spending decisions in Westminster can affect how devolved administrations are able to join the fight to beat cancer sooner.
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Cancer Campaigns Ambassador Clive Barley shares his personal story of bowel cancer and why he campaigns for Government to improve early diagnosis.