Failure to diagnose cancer patients at an early stage of the disease is putting patients’ recovery at risk, according to a study by Cancer Research UK.
The study looked at variations in diagnosis across England in 2012-13, identifying the number of patients whose cancer was diagnosed at a late stage. There was a 10 per cent variation between the best and worst areas of the country, with Bath, Swindon, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire coming out on top with 40 per cent of cancers diagnosed at a late stage, compared to 50 per cent on Merseyside – 1,000 people could have had an earlier diagnosis on Merseyside if that gap was closed.
In Warwickshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire, 44.1 per cent of patients had their cancers diagnosed late – 464 people could have had an earlier diagnosis if their region had matched the best level in the country, while in the Thames Valley, another 278 people would have been diagnosed and treated earlier. In Birmingham and the Black Country, the gap was wider – 883 people could have benefited from an earlier diagnosis.
Earlier diagnosis can significantly improve survival rates – an early diagnosis of any of the eight most common cancers (at stage one or two) means that someone has an 80 per cent chance of surviving for at least 10 years, compared to a 25 per cent chance when diagnosed at stage three or four ( a late diagnosis).
Cancer Research UK (CRUK) has said that it is not clear why the variations occur – they may be linked partly to the occurrence of different cancers; some are harder to diagnose than others. But they could also be linked to other factors.
CRUK’s Dr Jodie Moffat said: “These might include patients not going to their doctor as early as they could with possible cancer symptoms, and GPs sometimes failing to suspect cancer or not referring patients for diagnostic tests promptly.”
Sian Thompson, solicitor for Medical Accident Group, said: “Thousands of people across the country would have a better chance of surviving cancer if these variations did not exist; even aiming to match the level of the best area in the country is not enough. The NHS has set itself standards for diagnosing and treating cancer swiftly in its cancer strategy – raising awareness among patients may be one element of that strategy, but patients must then be able to rely on accurate diagnosis when they visit their GP, swift referral onwards and prompt, effective treatment at hospital.”
If you have been affected by delays in cancer diagnosis and treatment, Medical Accident Group can help. Our experienced and sympathetic team, whose knowledge of clinical negligence and personal injury law is extensive, can support you through the process of making a claim and seeking justice. We can advise on issues from brain injury or birth injury to surgical and medical errors and accidents at work. Call us free on 0800 050 1668.