Record numbers get NHS cancer checks

THE number of people checked for signs of cancer exceeded two million for the first time last year, NHS England has revealed.

In 2018, a record 2.2 million checks were carried out following urgent referral by GPs. That’s the equivalent of almost 6,000 a day or more than four a minute – an increase of almost 250,000 compared to 2017.

The number of people receiving treatment for cancer also topped 300,000 for the first time last year, a rise of almost 13,000 on the year before.

New figures show cancer survival is at an all-time high, with 10,000 more patients surviving for at least 12 months after diagnosis than five years earlier. But the NHS Long Term Plans aims to go even further and increase the proportion of cancers caught early from half to three-quarters, a move that would save as many as 55,000 more lives each year.

NHS England’s national director for cancer Cally Palmer said the growing number of referrals is encouraging and wants even more people to come forward if they think they are at risk.

She said: “Thanks to a greater awareness of symptoms, more people than ever before are coming forward to get checked for cancer.

“We want to see even more people seeking help when something is not right – catching cancer earlier when it can be treated best is crucial to providing peace of mind for patients and their families and saving more lives.”

NHS England credits the rise in checks and treatment to a number of factors, including new guidance for GPs in 2015 which lowered the threshold for cancer referral. Celebrity cancer patients such as Bill Turnbull, Stephen Fry and Jeremy Bowen have also helped raise awareness.

The NHS Long Term Plan will introduce a new 28 day faster diagnosis standard that will see patients diagnosed with cancer or given the all clear within four weeks.

Other proposals include rapid “one stop shop” diagnostic centres, lung scanning trucks in supermarket car parks and the purchase of upgraded testing equipment.