39 per cent of lung cancers and 32 percent of ovarian cancers are only diagnosed after admission to A&E. Macmillan Cancer Support’s report on the extent of late diagnosis – published this week – highlights that delays in cancer diagnosis are still affecting UK survival rates, now the poorest in Europe. The report echoes the findings two years ago of a National Cancer Intelligence Network study of lung cancer and bowel cancer patients who were diagnosed in 2006-8 after an emergency.
Geographical variation in diagnostic tests for cancer
At the moment, GPs are only able to refer patients on an urgent or (seemingly) non-urgent basis. With some cancers, symptoms may not be specific or “visible” and so can be dismissed by patients and doctors alike as not being serious. In addition, the types of diagnostic tests and investigations available – and the waiting times for them – vary considerably from area to area.
Breast cancer survival rates improving
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, with an estimated 55,000 diagnosed each year, mainly women. It now has one of the higher cancer survival rates with 80% of people now living more than five years after diagnosis.
More awareness needed of cancer and its symptoms
Many say that increased awareness and understanding of the disease, breast cancer screening and innovations in treatment have played a significant part in this, both because of people going to see their GP earlier and because doctors recognise the signs and refer accordingly. Likewise, with cervical cancer, mortality rates have decreased significantly since improvements in NHS screening; now estimated to save around 5,000 deaths each year.
Delays in treatment can be fatal
Whilst survival rates are thankfully improving for certain cancers, despite this there is still an unacceptable number of cases where cancers of the brain, lung, breast and cervix have been misdiagnosed, diagnosed late or been subject to unacceptable delays in treatment. Sometimes these delays are fatal.
The chances of survival from any cancer are better, the earlier it is diagnosed
The NHS England’s national clinical director has said that we need to see an end to A&E being the prompt for the diagnosis of a quarter of cancers. For this to happen, we need to see more investment in raising awareness of the early signs of cancer for both patients and GPs, along with a better system of referral to give cancer patients the best opportunities of recovery.
Cancer Research has information on spotting the early signs of cancer, including cervical cancer. For more information click here. Further information on breast cancer is available from the following breast cancer charities:
If you or a loved one have had to deal with the consequences of a misdiagnosis or late diagnosis of cancer, please call us on freephone 0808 115 6189 or email us to see if we can help.
For more information and a selection of case studies on cancer misdiagnosis see here.
Posted 2nd May 2014 | Posted in News,Uncategorised