Late cancer diagnosis 'costing lives and money'

"Almost half of cancer patients diagnosed too late," says The Guardian, citing a new report that explored both the financial and health impact of late cancer diagnosis.

The late diagnosis of almost all types of cancer usually means the disease has already spread within the body, making it less treatable, reducing a patient's chances of survival, and potentially increasing the cost of effective treatments.

This means an enduring aim of cancer treatment is to pick up the disease as soon as possible, so treatment is more likely to be effective.

The report predicted around 52,000 cases of four common cancers (colon, rectallung and ovarian) may be spotted too late every year, costing the NHS around an extra £150 million to treat.

Various theories have been put forward to explain why this is the case, including "patients put[ting] their heads in the sand when they feared cancer", and how "doctors are struggling to get patients seen quickly".

 

Every cancer has different early signs and symptoms depending on the type, but all usually have two important factors in common: the changes are persistent and can't be explained.

 

Typically, these signs and symptoms might include persistent changes to bowel habits (such as having blood in urine or stools), a cough that doesn't get better after a long time, or persistent pelvic pain.

 

Nobody wants to bother their GP unnecessarily, but you should never be worried about booking an appointment if you experience changes to your body's normal processes, or if you have symptoms that are out of the ordinary that do not resolve within a few weeks.

The report was produced by Incisive Health, a specialist health policy and communications consultancy, in collaboration with experts at Cancer Research UK, a leading cancer charity. It was funded by Cancer Research UK.

The report – titled "Saving lives, averting costs: an analysis of the financial implications of achieving earlier diagnosis of colorectal, lung and ovarian cancer" – presumed that early diagnosis is crucial, and aimed to uncover the financial implications of achieving earlier diagnosis for colon, rectal, non-small cell lung (the most common type of lung cancer) and ovarian cancers.

The report estimated the number of people currently diagnosed with cancer using national guidance and data sources. This included data on the stage of the cancer when it was diagnosed (where available), and the authors calculated the cost of treatment. They then modelled what would happen if the cancers had been diagnosed earlier.

 

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