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NHS struggling to make progress on early cancer diagnosis

Published on 05/04/22 at 10:52am

MPs have warned that the NHS in England is struggling to make progress on its flagship target to diagnose three-quarters of cancer cases at an early stage.

The Health and Social Care Committee said staffing shortages and disruption from the pandemic were causing delays, and that over 340,000 people could miss out on early diagnosis if progress is not made. Around 54% of cases are diagnosed at stages one and two, which is pivotal in increasing the chances of survival. The aim is to diagnose 75% of cases in the early stages by 2028, but there has been no improvement to this in the last six years.

During the pandemic, three million fewer people were invited for screening during the pandemic than would have been expected.

The Department of Health has said it recognised that “business as usual is not enough” and added that it was developing a new 10-year cancer plan. A spokesperson said that progress was already being made, with a network of 160 new diagnostic centres being opened.

Early detection and diagnosis of cancer is vital, to increase the chances of effective treatment. It is important to contact your doctor if you are experiencing early signs of cancer, but some types of cancer can even be found before they manifest through symptoms.

The NHS is currently struggling to hit its target to begin treatment within two months of an urgent referral. MPs said that the effort to improve early cancer diagnosis was being undermined by extended waiting times and mounting pressure in the wake of the pandemic.

Lina Adams

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