Healthy living

10,000 cancer deaths due to late diagnosis

Double previous estimates

Up to 10,000 people die of cancer each year in England because they are diagnosed too late, according to government research.

Professor Mike Richards, National Cancer Director, described the current situation as "unacceptable". His comments are to be published in the British Journal of Cancer.

Each year in the UK over 34,000 of all cancer deaths (40%) are caused by breast, colon and lung cancer.

The professor said that half of these could have been avoided if diagnosis was as good as in the best-performing European countries.

In today's Guardian newspaper, Professor Richards said: "Efforts now need to be directed at promoting early diagnosis for the very large number (over 90%) of cancer patients who are diagnosed as a result of their symptoms, rather than by screening.

"The National Awareness and Early Diagnosis Initiative (NAEDI) has been established to co-ordinate and drive efforts in this area.

"The size of the prize is large - potentially 5,000 to 10,000 deaths that occur within five years of diagnosis could be avoided every year."

A survey by Cancer Research UK earlier in the year found that around 40% of Britons delayed going to the doctor, even if they had early signs of cancer.

This article was published on Mon 30 November 2009

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