Our research on diagnosing cancer earlier

Spotting cancer early improves the chances of successful treatment. That's why we're doing everything we can to ensure that more people are diagnosed at an earlier stage.

"My early diagnosis was my second chance"

Sandy's bowel cancer was picked up through the bowel screening test before he realised anything was wrong. Thanks to early diagnosis and effective treatments, Sandy is alive and well. "It meant I was there at my daughter's wedding and I'll be able to watch my grandchildren grow up. I'm so lucky."

“My aim is to help save lives by developing a screening programme”

Professor Ian Jacobs is leading a clinical study to find out if blood tests and ultrasound can be used to spot ovarian cancer early, when treatment is more likely to be successful.

What we're doing now

Cancer survival rates have doubled over the past 40 years and that's partly because doctors have become much better at spotting the disease early. Our scientists are looking at new ways to detect cancers earlier.

Survival rates for oesophageal cancer remain low. Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald in Cambridge is testing a simple 'sponge on a string', which could help identify people with a condition called Barrett's oesophagus – a risk factor for developing oesophageal cancer.

Teams of scientists in Cambridge and London, led by Professors Doug Easton and Ros Eeles, are carrying out large studies to identify genetic variations that affect people's risk of prostate, breast and ovarian cancer. These tests could help spot people at higher risk from these cancers – in the future this could mean they are offered tailored screening or prevention advice.

In Guildford, Professor Kenneth Young is investigating new digital X-ray technology, which could improve breast cancer detection and save even more lives. And in London, Professor Peter Sasieni is looking at ways to make the cervical cancer screening programme even more effective.

Our researchers are also looking at reasons why people may not take part in cancer screening programmes. Professor Jane Wardle and her team in London are helping to identify and tackle the barriers that can make it harder for people to participate in screening

How we've made a difference so far

Here are just a few examples of our achievements. We...

  • Supported pioneering research that has led to the development of urine tests that could spot bladder cancer earlier and make diagnosing it less uncomfortable than the current test (cystoscopy). The new technology is being tested in large-scale clinical trials.
  • Contributed to the development of the UK's national screening programmes – for bowel, breast and cervical cancer - which together save thousands of lives every year.
  • Helped fund the trial showing that the bowel scope test has the potential to prevent a third of bowel cancer cancers in people who are screened, as well as detecting the disease earlier.

If you are looking for more information about the signs and symptoms of cancer or the national screening programmes, please visit these sections of our website:



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