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Cancer screening works

Screening is more likely to pick up early cancers than GP referral or after an emergency presentation, new figures from Cancer Research UK and Public Health England’s National Cancer Intelligence Network confirm.

For example, of those colorectal (bowel) cancers picked up by screening in England during 2012 and 2013, 37 per cent were caught at the earliest stage (stage one) and 8 per cent were advanced (stage four). This compares to 6 and 40 per cent at stage one and four diagnosed as emergencies and 18 and 22 per cent diagnosed after GP referral.

The full analysis includes 574,500 cases of 10 cancers diagnosed in 2012 and 2013: bladder, breast, colorectal, kidney, lung, melanoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, ovarian, prostate and uterine.

Screening is available for breast cancer for women and colorectal cancer for men and women. For the 10 cancers, screening picked up 63 per cent at stage one and 3 per cent at stage four.

Of patients diagnosed following a GP referral, 34 per cent were stage one and 22 per cent stage four, compared to 58 and 11 per cent respectively of those diagnosed as emergencies.

“For the first time we are able to see specifically how advanced or how early cancers are when they are diagnosed via different routes within the health system,” says Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of early diagnosis. “This new information really helps us understand the best ways to diagnose cancer and where the health service should target resources.”

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