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Let’s be clear: early diagnosis is crucial for cancer patients

NHS England’s National Clinical Director for Cancer looks at the work being done to support the ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ campaign launched yesterday in conjunction with the Department of Health and Public Health England:

Through the latest Be Clear on Cancer campaign we are encouraging people who get out of breath doing things they used to be able to do, or have had a cough for three weeks or more, to see their GP and have their symptoms checked out.

The earlier we diagnose patients, the higher the likelihood of successful treatment that can cure cancer or improve quality of life for patients.

Previous national Be Clear on Cancer campaigns had an encouraging impact on early diagnosis and clinical outcomes for patients. In the period following the first national lung cancer campaign, around 700 more people were diagnosed, 400 more were diagnosed at an early stage compared with the same period in the previous year, and around 300 more had surgery as a first treatment.

To be sure we are able to see improved outcomes from the Be Clear on Cancer campaigns, once people come forward to their GP with symptoms that need investigating, our diagnostic services must be fit-for-purpose.

This is a cornerstone of the independent Cancer Taskforce report.  Our recently-launched implementation plan lays out the first steps we are taking towards delivering the improvements we need, including an additional £15million investment in earlier diagnosis this year.

We have asked CCGs to plan for appropriate diagnostic services in this year’s Planning Guidance, and are boosting this with a National Diagnostics Capacity Fund for projects and initiatives across the country to create long-term transformation and sustainability in diagnostic services.

We are also moving forward with work to ensure that, by 2020, all patients referred by their GP with a suspicion of cancer, including those who come forward as a result of a Be Clear on Cancer campaign, receive a diagnosis or have cancer ruled out within 28 days.  We have selected five test sites, drawn from across England, to test the rules for the new standard, and over the coming months will be working with them to understand the challenges and opportunities presented by the new standard.

Early diagnosis is crucial to improving outcomes from cancer and many other serious diseases. These initiatives represent the first major strides of the national cancer programme towards making earlier diagnosis a reality for the thousands of people diagnosed with cancer each year.

Chris Harrison

Professor Chris Harrison is NHS England’s National Clinical Director for Cancer and he is Medical Director (Strategy) for The Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester.

He qualified in Medicine from Manchester and, following experience in both hospital medicine and primary care, trained in epidemiology and public health.

Chris held a series of Director of Public Health Posts in Lancashire before becoming Cancer Director for the North West Region in 2000, and then Medical Director of Greater Manchester Strategic Health Authority in 2002.

He became Executive Medical Director at The Christie from 2006 until 2013 when he moved to London becoming Medical Director at Imperial Healthcare NHS Trust before returning to Manchester in March 2016.

Between 2011 and 2013 Chris was seconded part time from his role at The Christie to be Clinical Director for Cancer to NHS London.

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  1. Steve says:

    I am 71 and have been diagnosed with a possible small cell lung mass in my upper right lobe. I have had a range of emotions starting with an odd feeling of calm at the discovery to not knowing the extent and outcome because of mixed messages re curability pre pet scan to the discovery and fear of dissemination to other organs which might be made evident after pet scan. The conversations I have had with my wife who worked for many years at a well known cancer hospital has been insightful but the gremlins are still in the back of my mind and can not but affect ones thinking and planning for the future. It is clear from the professionals point of view a positive attitude assists in the way you are viewed and seemingly can affect the way in which the direction and treatment plan is implemented. So far so good, every day I am becoming more conscious of my
    own mortality and the precious moments past and present in this one gains more and more strength and less gremlins.