Cancer Research UK reveals 'postcode lottery' in cancer diagnosis

Cancer Research UK has said getting a prompt and accurate cancer diagnosis depends on where you live. 

Prompt and accurate cancer diagnosis depends on where patients live, Cancer Research UK (CRUK) has said.

A review of cancer cases in England in 2012 and 2013 by the charity found that 20,000 patients could have begun treatment sooner had all areas delivered diagnoses at the level of the best areas.

The top place for swift diagnosis was the south west, where 40% of cases were caught late.

The comparable figure for Merseyside was 49%, meaning that another 1,000 patients in and around Liverpool could have been diagnosed sooner if the ‘postcode gap’ was closed.

Patients who are diagnosed when their cancer is at stage one or two have a better chance of survival compared with patients who get a late diagnosis at stage three or four.

Focusing on breast cancer, the charity found nearly a quarter of patients in London were diagnosed late compared with 10% in Leicestershire and Lincolnshire.

With bowel cancer, Merseyside again came out the worst in England. Almost 60% of patients were diagnosed late, compared with half in East Anglia.

The figures come ahead of the launch of CRUK’s early diagnosis campaign next week, which will encourage people to spot bodily signs of change and avoid delaying going to their GP.

‘Much more needs to be done to give patients the best chance of surviving their disease in all areas,’ said CRUK chief executive Harpal Kumar.

Sarah Hiom, the charity's director of early diagnosis, said it was ‘unacceptable to see such variation across England’.

NHS England national clinical director for cancer Sean Duffy said: 'The independent cancer taskforce report has highlighted the need for improvements in early diagnosis in order to save lives, including a new standard to ensure that everyone with suspected cancer receives a definitive diagnosis or the all-clear within four weeks.

'NHS England is working with others across the health service on how to deliver these recommendations.

'Catching more cancers early will ultimately mean more patients surviving and leading full lives. It is critical that patients spot symptoms early and GPs make sure they are sent for diagnostic tests quickly.'  

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