GPs are referring more patients than ever for suspected cancer with 2.8 million people sent for checks in the past year, the latest figures show.
Data from NHS England showed the number of patients being referred via urgent cancer pathways rose by 7% in May 2022 to April 2023 compared with the previous year.
In total, 327,312 people started treatment for cancer compared to 321,144 in the previous 12 months, the figures showed.
But monthly data also shows only 78% of people referred for urgent cancer symptoms were seen within a fortnight in April compared with 84% in March. For urgent breast symptoms it was 72%.
In April, 71% of people were told whether they had cancer or not within four weeks and 90% of patients had their first treatment within 31 days of cancer diagnosis, the figures show.
NHS England said the NHS remains under significant pressure with A&E having the busiest May on record seeing more than 2.2 million patients.
The figures show staff have been working ‘flat out’ with average elective waits falling to 13.8 weeks for the 7.4 million people on the waiting list.
Strikes by junior doctors had also led to more than 195,000 appointments and procedures having to be rescheduled, NHS England said.
NHS national medical director Professor Sir Stephen Powis said: ‘Despite the NHS continuing to see high levels of demand across urgent and emergency care, hard-working staff are continuing to deliver improvements as set out in our urgent and emergency recovery plan.
‘Even as hospitals dealt with the most disruptive industrial action in its history, average waits for people on the waiting list dropped to just under 14 weeks – the lowest it’s been since before winter.
He added the everyone knew the overall waiting list would continue to increase for a time as people who may have put off coming forward for care over the past few years of the pandemic sought help.
‘Today’s data shows another record 12 months for cancer treatment and referrals, with more than ever before getting checked and starting treatment. We continue to urge people to come forward because the earlier cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat.’