Early cancer detection targets missed, report finds


Just 25% of patients are diagnosed with the disease at its earliest stage, a report has found

26th July 2016 by Gavin Stuart 0 Comments

The Scottish Government’s cancer detection targets have been missed by a wide margin, figures have revealed.

A report by the Information Services Division (ISD) found that from January 2014 to December 2015 just 25.1% of people with breast, colorectal and lung cancer were diagnosed with the disease at its earliest stage.

This is an improvement of 8% over the figures from 2010/11, but far short of targets set in the Scottish Government’s Detect Cancer Early programme.

Launched by the then health secretary Nicola Sturgeon in 2012, the initiative aimed to improve detection rates by a quarter by the end of 2015.

The ISD report found early detection rates were particularly poor in Scotland’s most deprived areas, with 29% of patients only diagnosed when the disease was at its most advanced stage.

It is vital the NHS meet the targets set if they are ever to provide outcomes for cancer patients that match the best in Europe.

Charities have expressed disappointment that the targets have been missed.

Elspeth Atkinson, Macmillan’s director for Scotland, said: “If someone is diagnosed early they are more likely to survive cancer and less likely to experience long-term negative effects as a result of treatment.

“It is vital the NHS meet the targets set if they are ever to provide outcomes for cancer patients that match the best in Europe.”

Mary Allison, director for Scotland at Breast Cancer Now, said early detection could increase survival rates fivefold for patients diagnosed with the disease.

She added: “While progress has clearly been made, these figures show that more needs to be done to detect breast cancer early in our most deprived communities.

“We need effective early detection in our most deprived communities to help stop breast cancer deaths by 2050.”

The Scottish Government said cancer death rates have fallen by 11% in the past decade but admitted it could take “many years” before the full impact of the Detect Cancer Early programme is felt.

Health secretary Shona Robison said: “The figures released today show that over 25% of all breast, lung and bowel cancers diagnosed in Scotland during 2014 and 2015 were detected at stage one – an increase of 8% in the last five years.

“It will take many years before the full impact of our ambitious Detect Cancer Early programme is realised, however we are already seeing improvements in public awareness and attitudes to cancer including an increase in the uptake of bowel screening, particularly from those in more deprived areas.

“Our £100m cancer strategy, which sets out the work we will take forward to improve the early detection of cancer, is committed to the Detect Cancer Early Programme for the future.

“Dealing with a cancer diagnosis can be extremely difficult and scary and cancer treatments continue to be most effective when cancer is detected early, before it has a chance to grow and spread.

“Changing behaviours takes time and that is why through our programme we will continue to invest in earlier detection of cancer and continue with our activity to encourage even more people to get checked early and attend for screening when invited.”