World Cancer Day 2019 - Early Diagnosis

This World Cancer day, we're focusing on how advancements in early diagnosis are making a difference to cancer patients everywhere.

04 February 2019

Diagnosing cancer early is key

When a patient’s cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, there is a much greater chance of being able to treat the disease successfully, often with less invasive procedures and fewer long-term side effects.

The NHS has calculated that we can save 55,000 more lives every year by diagnosing more cancers early. 

It’s also important that we diagnose cancers as fast as possible so that treatment can start quickly, as accurately as possible - for example, identifying the genetic make-up of an individual’s tumour tells us how best to treat it - and that we diagnose relapse as early as possible.  

Challenges to early diagnosis

Some cancers don’t cause any symptoms until they become advanced, for example those deep within the body like pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancers.

People can be too embarrassed to talk their about their symptoms, or too scared of what they might find 

Some people don’t take up their invitations for screening.

Many cancers cause vague symptoms that are more likely to be something less serious, so it can be difficult for GPs to know when to refer.

What we are doing to diagnose and treat cancer earlier

RM Partners, the West London Cancer Alliance hosted by The Royal Marsden, is tasked with improving outcomes and experience for patients in northwest and southwest London. With RM Partners we have developed:

  • The award-winning RAPID diagnostic prostate cancer pathway to detect prostate cancer faster 
  • Lung health checks and low dose CT scans for people at risk of lung cancer
  • A telephone reminder service to encourage participation in the national bowel screening programme
  • Easier to access clinics to increase uptake of cervical screening 
  • A streamlined pathway from GP to treatment for patients with symptoms of colorectal cancer

We are also:

  • Funding a new early diagnosis consultant, thanks to The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity
  • Supporting GPs to help spot the signs of cancer through our events and online learning resources
  • Exploring how a simple breath test could diagnose certain cancers
  • Pioneering the use of whole body MRI scans to diagnose cancer in the bones at an earlier stage
  • Running a trial offering a genetic test to patients with a family history of prostate or breast cancer
  • As one of NHSE’s seven new genomics hubs, offering genetic sequencing to more and more patients at diagnosis so we can start the treatments we know are most likely to work as quickly as possible

Learn more about early diagnosis