Cancer early detection target missed

Written by Tom Freeman on 25 July 2017 in News

Early detection of bowel, lung and breast cancers fails to meet Scottish Government's 2012 ambition

Cancer cells - Fotolia

NHS Scotland has improved its rate of detecting cancer early but still falls short of the target set by the Scottish Government.

New official statistics reveal 25.5 per cent of bowel, lung and breast cancers diagnosed in Scotland between 1 January 2015 and 31 December 2016 were at stage one, an increase of nine per cent since the Detect Cancer Early programme was launched.

The aim was to increase the rate by 25 per cent from the same baseline.


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Meanwhile the highest proportion of bowel lung or breast cancer patients, 29.4 per cent, were diagnosed at stage 4, the most advanced stage of disease.

Gregor McNie, Cancer Research UK’s senior public affairs manager in Scotland, said the increase in early detection was welcome but many patients still wait too long for a diagnosis.

“Missing cancer waiting times targets is a clear indication that diagnostic services in Scotland aren’t coping,” he said.

“There is a huge variation in performance between Boards, and outcomes for patients living in Scotland’s more deprived communities too often lag behind those who are better off.

“These tests are vital to diagnose cancer earlier. The Scottish Government must make sure that the health service is able to meet the growing demand.”

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “The earlier a cancer is diagnosed the easier it is to treat, which is why our £41 million Detect Cancer Early programme has been so vital.  We welcome the increase in detection of cancer at the earliest stages, and that 25.5% of all breast, lung and bowel cancers in Scotland during 2015 and 2016 were diagnosed at stage one - an increase of 9.2% in 5 years.

 “We’re committed to tackling variations in inequalities in cancer mortality, and these latest statistics show that the largest increases in early diagnosis are from patients diagnosed from our more deprived communities – an increase of 17.4 per cent.”

Scottish Labour's health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said NHS staff had been let down by the SNP

“It is unacceptable that 75 per cent of Scots are still diagnosed late for cancer,” he said.

“It is particularly concerning that those from the most deprived areas are being diagnosed at the latest stage - your chances of surviving cancer should not be determined by where you live or how well off you are.”

Scottish Lib Dem health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “This latest failure comes on the back of over 50 months where the SNP have failed to hit the main cancer waiting time target.”

In 2015, 16,011 people died of cancer in Scotland and approximately 31,500 people were diagnosed with cancer.

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