Early cancer diagnosis more likely in ‘less deprived’ parts of Scotland: report

Written by Emily Woods on 13 August 2019 in News

The report showed one in four bowel, breast and lung cancer patients (25.5 per cent) were diagnosed at stage one

Cancer Research UK's Gordon Matheson said the data on deprived areas was "unacceptable" - Image credit: Cancer Research UK

A report has revealed the poorest areas of Scotland are “less likely to be diagnosed at an earlier stage” of cancer, leading to calls for more NHS staffing and “tailored resources” to catch cancer earlier in deprived communities.

NHS Scotland information services division data, released today, showed in 2017-18 9.4 per cent more people were diagnosed at an earlier stage of bowel, breast and lung cancer in Scotland compared to 2010-2011.

The report showed one in four bowel, breast and lung cancer patients (25.5 per cent) were diagnosed at stage one.

“For people with breast, colorectal or lung cancer in the most deprived areas, 22.6 per cent were diagnosed at the earliest stage (stage 1) compared with 29.1 per cent in the least deprived area,” the report said.

Cancer Research UK said it was “unacceptable” that those living in Scotland’s poorer communities had less chance of getting an early diagnosis.

“It remains unacceptable that those living in Scotland’s poorer communities have significantly less chance of being diagnosed at an early stage when treatment is more likely to be successful,” Cancer Research UK public affairs manager Gordon Matheson said.

“For this to change it’s essential we see more tailored resources being targeted at Scotland’s poorer communities.

“The Scottish Government must also ensure that there’s enough staff to do this vital work, if we are to meet current and future need.”

Scottish public health minister Joe FitzPatrick said it was “particularly encouraging” that there had been a 11.8 per cent increase in the proportion of stage one diagnoses of bowel, breast and lung cancers in the most deprived areas.

However, he did not comment on the disparity between early diagnoses in lesser deprived and more deprived areas.

“These new figures show an increase in the number of people diagnosed at the earliest stage of bowel, breast and lung cancer in Scotland compared to 2010-11,” he said.

“More people are surviving cancer than ever before, with urgent cancer referrals fast tracked. Cancer death rates have decreased by more than 10% in the last decade, and early detection is crucial to this.”

The Detect Cancer Early programme was launched in 2012, with a target to increase the portion of those diagnosed at early stages of the disease by 25 per cent by the end of 2015.

But the report said the percentage of those diagnosed at stage one would need to increase to 29.2 per cent to meet the Scottish Government’s target.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats said it was “disheartening” that the Scottish Government was failing to meet its target on early detection.

“Early diagnosis of cancer is essential and can make all the difference to successful treatment,” Lib Dem health spokesperson Alex-Cole Hamilton said.

“Disappointingly for patients and their loved ones, this is yet another broken promise.

“Cancer waiting times are at their worst since the standard was introduced in 2012 and people in the most deprived areas are still less likely to be diagnosed at an early stage. Patients are being failed and the health secretary must act swiftly to turn this around. Properly fund and resource the NHS or risk more lives.”

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