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Spotting cancer early saves lives

Why spotting cancer early is important

Early diagnosis of cancer can lead to treatment that can save lives. Cancer that’s diagnosed at an early stage, before it’s had the chance to spread is more likely to be treated successfully. If the cancer has spread, treatment becomes more difficult, and generally a person’s chances of surviving are much lower.

Below are some examples from CRUK of how spotting cancer early can make a real difference:

  • Bowel cancer More than nine in 10 bowel cancer patients will survive the disease for more than 5 years if diagnosed at the earliest stage.
  • Breast cancer More than 90% of women diagnosed with breast cancer at the earliest stage survive their disease for at least 5 years compared to around 15% for women diagnosed with the most advanced stage of disease.
  • Lung cancer Around 70% of lung cancer patients will survive for at least a year if diagnosed at the earliest stage compared to around 5% for people diagnosed with the most advanced stage of disease.

Why are some cancers diagnosed late?

One out of every four cases of cancer in the UK is diagnosed during an emergency admission to hospital, and in general people diagnosed in this way have lower chances of survival compared with other cancer patients due to the late diagnosis of their conditions.

There are numerous factors that could contribute to a late or delayed diagnosis of cancer, for example:

  • Lack of knowledge and low awareness of symptoms associated with cancer
  • People delay visiting their GP or seeking medical advice because they are worried about what may be found or a failure to understand or believe the value of early diagnosis
  • Delays in GPs referring patients for tests or treatment or delays in getting an appointment at the hospital
  • Some cancers do not present any symptoms until the disease has progressed to a later stage
  • Screening is not available for all types of cancer

To aid early diagnosis of cancer, it is important to be aware of your body and any changes or symptoms that occur and seek medical advice as soon as possible. Additionally taking part in any screening programmes available to you will help to reduce the risk of a late diagnosis and increase the chance of survival.