Theresa May has spoken about how the death of her god daughter from cancer has fuelled her determination to improve diagnosis and treatment of the disease.
The Prime Minister said a new cancer strategy would increase early diagnosis rates from one-in-two to three-in four within a decade.
Under the plans, the NHS will create a national network of “one stop shops” for cancer checks to drive up detection rates.
GPs will be told to send all patients with possible cancer symptoms to rapid diagnostic centres, which will normally provide a diagnosis within two weeks – and sometimes on the spot.
The new, “scan first” strategy, revealed by the Telegraph, means that patients will typically get a diagnosis – or all clear – within three weeks of first seeing their family doctor.
A network of at least 20 “rapid diagnostic centres” will begin work over the next two years, with further centres rolled out across the country over the decade, officials said.
The Prime Minister told the Conservative Party conference how the death of her goddaughter from cancer made her determined to fund the battle against the disease.
Her voice broke with emotion as she told the hall: “Cancer can strike any of us at any time. A few years ago my goddaughter was diagnosed with cancer. She underwent treatment and it seemed to be working, but then the cancer came back. Last summer, she sent me a text to tell me she was hoping to see another Christmas, but she didn’t make it.”
“Half of us will be diagnosed with cancer, all of us know someone who has been. Survival rates are increasing, but we’re lagging behind other countries, so today I can announce a new cancer strategy.”
“Today I can announce a new Cancer Strategy, funded through our 70th birthday investment, will form a central part of our long-term plan for the NHS.
“We will increase the early detection rate from one-in-two today, to three-in four by 2028 by lowering the age at which we screen for bowel cancer from 60 to 50, investing in the very latest scanners and building more rapid diagnostic centres.
“It will mean that by 2028, 55,000 more people will be alive five years after their diagnosis compared to today.. Every life saved means precious extra years with friends and family,” she said.
The strategy will form a central plank of a 10 year plan for the NHS, which is due to be published later this year.
Britain’s cancer survival rates lag far behind the European average, with one in five patients not diagnosed until they are admitted to hospital as an emergency.
Research published last year shows Britain’s survival rates are worse than the European average for nine in ten cancers, with rates for some diseases a decade behind countries like France and Sweden.
While the five-year survival rates for bowel cancer hit 58 per cent on average across Europe, the figure for the UK was 52 per cent. And the UK was second only to Bulgaria for the worst five-year survival rates for lung cancer.
Until now NHS targets have focused on time until treatment, which patients are supposed to start within 62 days of seeing a GP.
This means many patients are left to worry for weeks or even months while waiting for a diagnosis – during which time the disease can spread.
Currently just half of patients are diagnosed at stage one and two – when there is the best chance of curative treatment, and long-term survival.
The new strategy aims to ensure that three quarters of cases are identified early – meaning thousands of patients could recover or have their life extended by at least five years.
For example, 96 percent of people with colorectal cancer diagnosed at stage 1 will survive one year or more, while 46 percent will do so if diagnosed at stage 4.
There is concern that many signs are missed by GPs, meaning that a diagnosis is not made until cancer has become advanced and less responsive to treatment.Read More