More than 25,000 patients on NHS waiting lists are likely to have cancer, despite being referred to hospital for another condition, a disturbing study suggests.
GPs don’t suspect the disease and it isn’t discovered until patients finally have scans or start treatment for something else.
It means delays in tackling the record backlog of 7 million people could be fatal, as cancer is easier to treat if caught early.
Patients referred to a specialist with suspected cancer should be seen within two weeks and the disease diagnosed or ruled out within 28 days.
But people sent to a counselor for reasons other than cancer currently wait an average of 43.3 weeks for a diagnosis — ten times longer.
This longer period of time can give tumors time to grow and spread, reducing their chances of survival.
The NHS’s waiting list for routine surgeries in England in August crossed 7 million for the first time. This includes nearly 390,000 patients who have had to wait more than a year for treatment
NHS England still failed to meet targets to start treatment for disease within two months of urgent referral
WHAT DOES THE LATEST NHS BACKLOG DATA SHOW?
More than 7 million people in England were waiting for routine NHS surgeries, such as hip and knee replacements, in August.
Leading experts fear the ‘grim milestone’ – the equivalent of one in eight people – will only be surpassed when the pressures of winter, Covid and flu hit.
The backlog has risen from 6.8 million a month earlier, marking the highest total since the NHS records began in 2007. Nearly 390,000 patients have been forced to wait a year for their treatment, often while in severe pain.
Separate analysis suggests the NHS is performing fewer surgeries and treatments than before the pandemic, despite pledges to downsize the ever-growing list.
In the past year, an average of nearly 257,500 clinical treatments were performed each month, including hip and knee replacements, about 12 percent less than the year before the pandemic.
Damn monthly performance stats from the NHS also revealed that over 30,000 patients had to wait 12 hours in the ER – a record high. Meanwhile, doctors on the front lines have claimed that patients in parts of the country will have to wait eight hours for ambulances.
The House of Commons Library reviewed historical data on the pathway patients went through before being diagnosed with cancer.
Researchers found that nearly a quarter were initially referred to a specialist with no suspected cancer, but were later diagnosed with the disease.
They then applied their findings to the NHS’s current waiting lists, taking into account only the six million people still waiting to be diagnosed.
The analysis – conducted for the Labor Party – suggests that there are 25,262 patients who will eventually be diagnosed with cancer, but whose disease is not yet suspected.
This equates to about one in 240 people.
Wes Streeting, Labor’s shadow secretary for health and social care, described the numbers as “terrifying.”
At the King’s Fund annual conference today, he is expected to say: ‘It is terrifying to think that so many cancer cases are missed.
“Cancer patients go under the radar, undiagnosed and untreated.
‘As a patient whose kidney cancer was only discovered when I went for a routine scan, I know how important it is to detect cancer early.
‘Labour will train a new generation of doctors and nurses to treat patients on time again.’
According to data from the Office of National Statistics, 57 percent of patients with lung cancer survive their disease for five years or more when diagnosed at its earliest stage, compared with just 3 percent of those diagnosed once the cancer has already spread to other organs. has spread. .
dr. Ian Walker, Executive Director of Policy at Cancer Research UK, said: ‘That 25,000 people go undiagnosed on NHS waiting lists is shocking and worrying.
“We know that many cancer patients get their diagnosis when doctors were looking for something else.
This is all the more reason why the long-awaited 10-Year Cancer Plan must be the first priority of the new Secretary of Health.
This was promised by both his predecessors and was expected in July this year.
“While we have obviously gone through a lot of political changes, the longer we wait for a plan, the longer we wait for action and the longer cancer patients and their families have to wait for diagnosis and treatment.”
New figures show that the number of men being treated for prostate cancer has increased by more than a quarter in one year.
In August, 3,898 men were treated, compared to 3,057 in the same month last year.
Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, credited the rise of awareness campaigns, adding that people talking about cancer can ‘save lives’.
More people than ever before are undergoing urologic checkups – including for prostate cancer – with more than 40,000 more between August 2021 and August 2022, compared to the previous year.
The increase follows the launch of a joint campaign by the NHS and Prostate Cancer UK to encourage men to use the charity’s prostate risk monitoring tool.
Since its launch in February, the risk checker has been used more than a million times and is estimated to have helped an additional 1,800 men receive a diagnosis.
Comedian Stephen Fry is one of the celebrities who have spoken out after being diagnosed with the disease.
Prostate cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers and is highly treatable if detected early – research suggests that treatment in the first and second stages has a survival rate of nearly 100 percent, compared to about 50 percent in stage four.
Ms Pritchard said: ‘Talking about cancer saves lives – thanks to campaigns and tens of thousands more people coming in for checkups, we have treated more and more men with prostate cancer in the past year.
“This is good news for men and their families, because getting treatment at an earlier stage significantly increases your chances of survival.”
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Social Care said: ‘We understand how important it is for patients to receive early diagnosis, which is why we have opened more than 80 community diagnostic centers that have completed more than two million additional scans, tests since July. and delivered checks. 2021– also for cancer.
“In August, a record 255,000 people were seen following an urgent GP referral for suspected cancer and nearly 70 percent of patients were diagnosed or ruled out within 28 days of cancer.”