More people in England are being diagnosed with cancer before it reaches its most serious stage, according to new research by Public Health England (PHE).
Between 2006 and 2013, the proportion of sufferers who were referred for testing by GPs during the disease's early development went up, resulting in a simultaneous decline in emergency hospital diagnoses from 25 per cent to 20 per cent.
In the case of lung cancer, which is one of the country's biggest killers, the proportion diagnosed through GP emergency referral went up from 22 per cent to 28 per cent over the seven-year period, while there was a corresponding fall in emergency diagnoses from 39 per cent to 35 per cent.
The findings, presented today at the PHE's annual conference, shed a positive light on the future of cancer survival in England – catching it before it reaches the emergency stage increases the likelihood that a patient will make a full recovery.
Sara Hiom, director of early diagnosis at Cancer Research UK, said:
It’s really encouraging to see fewer people being diagnosed through emergency routes, because we know survival is poorer and the experience is worse for these patients. When cancer is caught early, we have more options for treatments and a far better chance of beating the disease.
England lagging in survival
While today's findings indicate cancer survival rate is set to improve, England still lags behind many of its western neighbours.
According to the most recent figures from the World Health Organisation (WHO), 137 out of 100,000 people die from cancer each year in the UK, which is more than in most countries in Europe and beyond.
In fact, out of 192 countries studied, the UK had the 32nd highest number of deaths. In Europe, only Ireland, France, the Netherlands and Denmark were among the few nations with a higher rate.
Julia Verne, head of clinical epidemiology at Public Health England, said:
The latest PHE data shows a positive trend in how cancer is diagnosed in England. The earlier the better if we are to catch up with comparable European countries and I am pleased that our work has been able to drive this.