• Saturday, February 24, 2024

HEALTH

Nearly three million urgent cancer tests conducted in England

Senior man going into CT scanner. CT scan technologist overlooking patient in Computed Tomography scanner during preparation for procedure

By: Kimberly Rodrigues

In the last 12 months, new analysis from NHS England indicates that almost three million individuals underwent urgent cancer checks. This number represents a surge of over a quarter compared to pre-pandemic levels.

The government emphasises the critical nature of early disease detection in enhancing survival rates. However, cancer charities highlight unmet targets and prolonged patient wait times for treatment.

The analysis discloses that a record-breaking 2,980,258 individuals in England received urgent cancer checks between November 2022 and October 2023. This figure reflects a 5% rise from the previous year and a substantial 26% surge from the same period in 2018-2019, before Covid, the BBC reported.

Several factors contribute to the increased urgent referrals from GPs, including rising cancer rates due to an aging UK population, individuals postponing care during the pandemic now seeking medical attention, and enhanced awareness generated by public campaigns and high-profile cancer cases.

To expand outreach, the NHS has deployed mobile units to shopping centres and supermarket car parks for community-based lung health assessments.

Furthermore, novel cancer awareness messages have been displayed in various locations, including pub toilets and underwear packaging.

Statistics indicate that over nine-in 10 individuals referred urgently by their GPs receive an all-clear diagnosis, with only approximately 6% diagnosed with cancer.

Dame Cally Palmer, NHS England’s national cancer director, acknowledged ongoing efforts, affirming that prioritising early cancer detection remains crucial for saving lives.

She highlighted the progress, noting an increased number of diagnoses at stages one and two.

During October, despite a record number of individuals being tested in England, more than 78,500, which accounts for 29%, faced delays exceeding the four-week target to determine potential cancer diagnosis.

Across all four nations of the UK, NHS services have consistently fallen short of their targets for treating cancer.

Specifically, in England in October 2023, only 63.1% of patients commenced treatment within two months of an urgent referral, notably below the 85% target and a decrease from the 64% reported in October 2022.

Minesh Patel, the head of policy at Macmillan Cancer Support, expressed concerns about the strain on cancer services due to inadequate support from UK governments, impacting individuals coping with cancer.

Patel urged politicians to provide increased funding and support for the cancer workforce both presently and in the future.

Health Minister Andrew Stephenson acknowledged improvements in cancer survival rates but emphasised the need for the health service to progress “further and faster.”

Stephenson highlighted efforts to expand the cancer workforce, perform over five million additional tests in community diagnostic centres since June 2021, and introduce legislation preventing the sale of tobacco to those who turned 14 in 2023 or younger.

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