The National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) has released worrying figures indicating that approximately one in four of cancer patients are only diagnosed when they reach hospital in an emergency situation. Often by then the cancer is advanced and has spread (metastasis) such that treatment options are sadly limited and the patient is likely to have a poor prognosis. Indeed, the NCIN research suggests that when the diagnosis is made at this late stage, more of those patients died within a year compared to cancer patients diagnosed sooner.

Some cancers can be more difficult to diagnose than others but greater use of screening programmes may be part of the answer. It is often the GP who is providing the treatment during the early stages of the cancer and he/she needs to have better facilities available, not necessarily to be able to diagnose the cancer itself, but at least to be able to appreciate the need for a referral and more specialist treatment. Earlier detection of cancer, however this can be achieved, is crucial if survival rates are to be improved.