NHS teams across the east of England are treating more cancers at an earlier stage than ever before.
The Cancer Rapid Registration Dataset shows that between April 2021 and March 2022, local NHS services diagnosed more than 11,700 cancers at an early stage – the highest number ever.
Latest figures show further improvements, with around 60 per cent of cancers detected at an early stage (stages one or two) in the region, up to autumn 2022.
Every day, more than 100 people in the east of England are diagnosed with cancer. Early diagnosis means cancers can be treated more easily and with better outcomes for patients.
Record numbers of people in the region are already coming forward for life-saving cancer checks – over 80,000 more patients were checked between March 2021 and December 2022, compared to the same period before the pandemic.
Nationally, one in every four GP referrals is currently for suspected cancer, and in December 2022 alone, more than 25,000 people in the east of England were checked following an urgent referral.
Local people are being urged to see their GP as soon as possible if they have any worrying symptoms.
Dr Linda Hunter, Associate Medical Director at Norwich and Norfolk University Hospitals and Clinical Director for the East of England Cancer Alliance (North), said:
“Thanks to the hard work of our local NHS, more patients are getting checked for cancer, and getting checked sooner. Early diagnosis means people have a better chance of successful treatment so this increase in cancer checks is really important.”
GP Dr Peter Holloway, who chairs the Primary Care Group for the East of England Cancer Alliances, said:
“NHS staff in our region continue to roll out new initiatives from community settings, such as targeted lung health checks and Cytosponge which can check on patients with swallowing or reflux type symptoms.
“We are working to make it as easy as possible for those most at risk to get vital, life-saving tests, so if anyone is worried that they may have symptoms of cancer, we want them to come forward as soon as possible.
“The chances are it won’t be cancer, but it is always worth checking because early treatment is crucial.
“If anyone has been putting off a call to their doctor, now is the time to act.”
Ray Anderson, from South West Hertfordshire, had a tumour detected early thanks to the bowel screening programme.
He had no symptoms but doctors told him that the tumour could have been present for six to eight years. Following keyhole surgery and chemotherapy, Ray has remained fit and active for more than 12 years since his treatment.
He now co-chairs the East of England Cancer Alliances’ Patient Partnership Group.
Ray said: “It is so important that people take up cancer screening and check in with their GP if they have any concerns.
“I am determined to do all I can to improve the experience of those treated for cancer. If caught early, the treatment you receive could save your life, as I believe it saved mine.”
Dame Cally Palmer, National Cancer Director for the NHS in England, said:
“We know fewer people came forward for cancer checks in the early stages of the pandemic, but thanks to the hard work of staff, we have now identified and caught up on those missing referrals, while more people are being diagnosed at an early stage than ever before – giving patients and their families the best chance of a successful outcome.”
The NHS Long Term Plan sets out a clear goal to diagnose 75 per cent of cancers at stage one or two by 2028. In the east of England, this equates to an additional 5,570 people a year.
The region has set out ambitious plans to transform cancer services over the next five years in the East of England Cancer Strategy – see www.canceralliance.co.uk/strategy