Cole-Hamilton: We must boost early cancer detection rates

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP today said Ministers must work with health boards to boost early cancer detection rates as new figures revealed a flagship target has been missed.

In 2012, the Scottish Government announced a four year Detect Cancer Early plan with a target to increase the proportion of people diagnosed with stage 1 breast, colorectal and lung cancer by 25% by 2015, compared to the 2010-11 baseline.

Figures announced today revealed that by the final year of the programme, there was an increase of 8% in stage 1 detection rates compared to 2010-11, well short of the target.

Among patients diagnosed with breast, colorectal and lung cancer living in the most deprived areas of Scotland, the highest proportion (29.6%) were diagnosed at stage 4, the most advanced stage of disease. 

Commenting, Mr Cole-Hamilton said:

“Detecting cancer early and ensuring patients get urgent treatment is vital to giving people the best possible chance to beat their illnesses. Any increase in the number of patients being diagnosed and treated at stage 1 is welcome but the truth is that this flagship target has been missed by a long way.

“Scots from the most deprived backgrounds are also more likely to be diagnosed at stage 4, when their cancer is far more serious, than at stage 1. We need to look why this inequality persists and what we can do to close the gap. How quickly someone is diagnosed with cancer should not depend on their background or bank balance.  

“We are right to set rigorous targets for early diagnosis. Cancer is a horrible disease that causes huge suffering for patients and their families and early detection saves lives. But Ministers need to work with health boards to understand why we are not getting the results we need and what can be done to improve performance.”

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