Record NHS cancer checks top three million in one year

NHS cancer checks have topped three million in a year for the first time – more than doubling in the last decade.

New analysis shows that there were 3,035,698 urgent cancer referrals for patients in the last year (March 2023- Feb 2024) , compared to 1,335,350 in the same period ten years ago. (March 2013- Feb 2024)

The NHS is committed to diagnosing more cancers at an earlier stage when it is easier to treat. More cancers than ever before are being caught at stages one and two.

There were more than a quarter of a million checks in February alone, an increase of more than 10% compared to the same month last year.

Last week, the NHS exceeded its 28 day faster diagnosis target for the first time, with more than three quarters of people (78%) receiving the all clear or a definitive diagnosis within four weeks.

NHS chiefs today said that having cancer referrals at an all time high plays an important part in getting more cancers detected early.  NHS drives continue with cancer awareness messages on urinal mats in pubs and football grounds.

From lung trucks in supermarket carparks to surgical hubs, the efforts of NHS staff are continuing to help diagnose more cancers and tackle the longest waits for cancer treatment.

The NHS has also pledged to eliminate cervical cancer by 2040, setting out plans to increase HPV vaccine and screening uptake, to save thousands of lives every year.

Professor Peter Johnson, NHS clinical director for cancer said: “Despite a challenging year for the NHS as everyone worked to recover services, record numbers of people were referred by hardworking GPs for vital checks, with over three million referrals over the last year – this means more people are coming forward when they have worrying signs and symptoms.

“Cancer caught early gives people a much better chance of successful treatment – this is why we have a huge focus on finding new ways to reach people in their communities – from lung trucks and liver vans to community diagnostic centres.

“Every year we are seeing new treatments and technology coming through for patients, so while I know that coming forward isn’t always easy and people worry about the outcome, I’d really encourage anyone who has a symptom that might be cancer to get checked without delay.

“Talking about cancer helps saves lives too, so if you’re seeing friends and loved ones who have health concerns, do encourage them to get checked too – the NHS wants to see people at the earliest opportunity.”

Health Minister Andrew Stephenson said: “A cancer diagnosis is devastating for both patients and their families but we know that the earlier cancer is found, the better the chances of a positive outcome, so I welcome the news that the NHS has delivered a record number of cancer checks over the last year.

“We are committed to seeing and treating cancer patients through earlier diagnosis and improving survival rates, and have invested record funding into cancer support, including £2.3 billion for 160 Community Diagnostic Centres to make it even easier to access local support.

“Thanks to these kind of innovations, cancer screening programmes, and measures to help people quit smoking, survival rates are improving across almost all types of cancer.”

The NHS website has a range of information and advice on cancer symptoms.