More cancers are being detected as a result of GPs referring patients for urgent investigations via the two-week wait pathway, while fewer are being diagnosed as emergencies, cancer experts say.
Their findings – due to be presented at the Public Health England annual conference today – are taken from a preliminary analysis of the Routes to Diagnosis registry and cover patients diagnosed with cancer from 2006 to 2013.
Overall they show that 20% cancers were diagnosed as an emergency in 2013, compared with almost 25% in 2006.
Meanwhile for lung cancer specifically, the proportion diagnosed through the GP two-week wait referral route has gone up from 22% to 28% – while the rate of diagnoses made through emergency presentation fell from 39% to 35%.
PHE said the Government’s flagship Be Clear on Cancer publicity campaigns – which included the ‘three-week cough’ campaign encouraging people to go to their GP if they had a cough last for three weeks or longer – may have contributed to the improvements.
However, there was no apparent change in the trend for either overall or lung-cancer specific emergency diagnoses since the national campaigns were introduced in 2012, while the increase in two-week wait diagnoses for lung cancer levelled off between 2012 and 2013.
Sara Hiom, director of early diagnosis at Cancer Research UK, said the findings were ‘really encouraging’.
She said: ‘When cancer is caught early, we have more options for treatments and a far better chance of beating the disease.’
However, she added that there was still ‘unacceptable’ variation and too many people were still being diagnosed as an emergency in hospital, and that the Government’s new cancer strategy ‘makes clear recommendations for how we can improve England’s cancer survival and patients’ experience’.