CANCER survival is now at “real risk” of "going into reverse", MPs have warned.
A damning report claims more than 340,000 Brits face being diagnosed with a much deadlier late-stage tumour due to critical staff shortages.
The inquiry claims a key Government pledge to pick up three in four cases early is now in disarray following the pandemic.
And warns the UK is still lagging behind other major developed nations, such as Canada and Australia, when it comes to beating the disease – with “no evidence” of catching up.
With some Brits still reluctant to come forward after the Covid crisis and continued treatment delays, former Health Sec Jeremy Hunt says “many more lives will almost certainly end prematurely".
The Commons' Health Select Committee chair said: “Earlier cancer diagnosis is the key to improving overall survival rates however progress is being jeopardised by staff shortages which threaten both diagnosis and treatment.
“We do not believe that the NHS is on track to meet the Government’s target on early cancer diagnosis by 2028.
“We are further concerned at the damaging and prolonged impact of the pandemic on cancer services with a real risk that gains made in cancer survival will go into reverse.”
Experts warn timely pick up of the disease is key in boosting outcomes.
Officials want three in four of all cases diagnosed early by 2028.
Currently, only half are identified at stage one or two.
Bowel cancer patients have a 90 per cent survival rate if their disease is spotted early.
But it falls to just ten per cent if it’s picked up later.
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Earlier this year, Sajid Javid pledged to make UK cancer survival the “best in Europe” after declaring war on the disease.
The Health Secretary wants a radical ten-year plan to speed up detection and boost outcomes.
Dr Ian Walker, Cancer Research UK’s executive director of policy said: “This report highlights the impact of the Government’s persistent failure to address chronic shortages in NHS staff on people affected by cancer.
“We need a cancer plan that works for all.”
Leading oncologist Professor Pat Price called for urgent action to deal with the backlog.
She said: “The UK was at the bottom of the cancer league tables before the pandemic and, despite the heroic efforts of frontline staff, the COVID induced backlog has pushed us towards complete collapse.
“This report shows a national cancer crisis caused by a lack of urgency to fund solutions to the cancer backlog.
“This is a crisis that should be at the top of the Prime Minister’s priority list.”
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An NHS England spokesperson said: "Cancer is a priority for the NHS and has been throughout the pandemic – and we have continued to implement new ways to diagnose cancer earlier.
"We have been seeing referrals for cancer checks at record highs for the last 11 months.
"By investing £3.8 billion in increased treatment and diagnostic capacity through the Elective Recovery Plan we aim to ensure that we are catching and treating more cancers at an early stage and saving even more lives."
The 10 cancer signs never to ignore
There are over hundreds of different types of cancer.
While some symptoms are specific, there are a handful that are more general or seen most frequently in cancer patients.
If you have any of these symptoms, it does not necessarily mean you have the disease.
But it's always worth checking with your GP as soon as possible.
- Unexplained weight loss
- Unusual swellings or lumps such as in the neck, armpit, stomach, groin, chest, breast or testicle
- Coughing that is persistent and doesn't go away after three or four weeks
- Mole changes – look for any changes in the size, shape or colour of existing ones or new growths
- Blood in your poo or pee, or changes in your bowel habits
- Pee problems, such as dribbling or waking up in the night desperate
- Unexplained pain or pain lasting more than four weeks
- Heartburn that doesn't seem to go away
- Difficulties swallowing
- Heavy night sweats
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