A record 3 million patients have undergone urgent NHS cancer checks as the figure doubles in a decade

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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The number of patients undergoing urgent cancer tests has topped three million in a year for the first time – more than doubling over the past decade.

Latest NHS figures show a record 3,035,698 people were referred for checks from March 2023 to February this year. 

The figure is 150,000 more than during the same period in 2022-23 and more than twice the 1,335,350 tested between March 2013 and February 2014.

The rocketing number of referrals is part of a drive to diagnose the disease earlier so it can be treated more easily and effectively. 

More cancers than ever are now being caught at stages one and two before it has spread to the surrounding tissues.

The number of patients undergoing urgent cancer tests has topped three million in a year for the first time – more than doubling over the past decade (stock photo)

The push is being boosted by the Princess of Wales’s brave announcement last month that she is having preventative chemotherapy after having unspecified abdominal surgery.

In February alone, more than a 250,000 checks were conducted, a rise of more than 10 per cent compared to the same month in 2023.

Last week the NHS exceeded its 28-day diagnosis target for the first time, with more than three-quarters of patients (78 per cent) receiving the all-clear or a diagnosis within four weeks of an urgent referral by their GP.

Professor Peter Johnson, NHS clinical director for cancer and one of Britain’s leading specialists, said the record number of tests is proof that more people are coming forward when they have worrying signs or symptoms.

‘Cancer caught early gives people a much better chance of successful treatment,’ he said.

‘This is why we have a huge focus on finding new ways to reach people in their communities, from lung trucks and liver vans to community diagnostic centres.

‘Every year we are seeing new treatments and technology coming through for patients.

‘While I know that coming forward isn’t always easy and people worry about the outcome, I’d really encourage anyone who has a symptom that might be cancer to get checked without delay.

‘Talking about cancer helps save lives too so if you’re seeing friends and loved ones who have health concerns, do encourage them to get checked. The NHS wants to see people at the earliest opportunity.’

The drive to encourage people to come forward for tests includes cancer awareness messages on toilet rolls and urinal mats in pubs and football grounds.

Latest NHS figures show a record 3,035,698 people were referred for checks from March 2023 to February this year (stock photo)

Latest NHS figures show a record 3,035,698 people were referred for checks from March 2023 to February this year (stock photo)

The Health Service has also pledged to eliminate cervical cancer by 2040, setting out plans to increase HPV vaccine and screening uptake to save thousands of lives every year.

Health minister Andrew Stephenson said: ‘A cancer diagnosis is devastating for both patients and their families.

‘But we know that the earlier cancer is found, the better the chances of a positive outcome so I welcome the news that the NHS has delivered a record number of cancer checks over the past year.

‘We are committed to seeing and treating cancer patients through earlier diagnosis and improving survival rates, and have invested record funding into cancer support, including £2.3billion for 160 Community Diagnostic Centres.

‘Thanks to these kind of innovations, cancer screening and measures to help people quit smoking, survival rates are improving across almost all types of cancer.’

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