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Cancer early detection targets missed

Cancer early detection targets missed

Cancer cells - credit fotolia

Health boards across Scotland have missed a government target to increase the number of cancer cases diagnosed early by 25 per cent.

The target was set by Nicola Sturgeon in 2012 when she was heath secretary.

Instead, figures released by Information Services Division (ISD) revealed early detection of breast, bowel and lung cancers was at 25 per cent last year, an increase of just eight per cent over the last five years.


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The figures follow a new £100m cancer strategy published by the Scottish Government in March.

The target was missed in every health board area, with those in more deprived communities still more likely to be diagnosed at a later stage when the disease was more advanced.

Health secretary Shona Robison said the programme had still been “vitally important” as cancer death rates had fallen 11 per cent in the last decade.

"It will take many years before the full impact of our ambitious Detect Cancer Early programme is realised,” she said, “however we are already seeing improvements in public awareness and attitudes to cancer, including an increase in the uptake of bowel screening particularly from those in more deprived areas.”

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Donald Cameron said the Government had fallen “woefully short” of meeting its target.

“The Scottish Government really ought to reflect on these promises, because the hopes and spirits of cancer patients and their families can rest upon them,” he said.

Scottish Labour’s health spokesman Anas Sarwar said the link between deprivation and late diagnosis was “shocking”, while Scottish Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie said the figures were “extremely disappointing”.

The Breast Cancer Now charity called for more effective screening in deprived communities.

Director Mary Allison said: “We know that breast screening attendance is falling and most of us don’t check our breasts regularly for the signs and symptoms of breast cancer. We need to work more closely with women to reverse these trends.”

NHS Grampian is also investigating an anomaly which saw a far higher proportion of patients diagnosed with breast cancer than anywhere else in Scotland.

Nearly 15,800 people died of cancer in Scotland in 2014 with approximately 31,700 diagnosed.

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