Two doctors analysing test results

Urgent rethink required in cancer early detection

Significant investment into diagnostic cancer equipment and technologies have been called for by Cancer Research UK as part of ambitions to significantly improve the early detection of cancer.

According to their new report, the Roadmap for the Early Detection and Diagnosis of Cancer, earlier detection of cancer offers arguably the single biggest opportunity to save lives from the disease, but faces many challenges in becoming a reality for NHS patients.

Consulting more than 100 experts, the Cancer Research UK report highlighted the siloed early detection research and development ecosystem, from academia and industry to the health services and policy makers, which they see as potentially hampering progress.

In response, they propose a series of tangible recommendations to unite these sectors, address the challenges and deliver a future for NHS patients where early detection of cancer is routine.

Through critical investment in diagnostic equipment and technologies, along with NHS staff, the report calls for further support for new ways of working and to drive the paradigm shift to diagnose more cancers at an earlier stage, ultimately saving lives.

It also highlights what it sees as a market failure in early detection of cancer, with too few innovative technologies making into the health system.

By having the right investments and policies in place, the UK has the potential to become a world leader in early detection and diagnosis of cancer, unlocking a major economic growth opportunity for the UK.

Dr David Crosby, Head of Prevention and Early Detection Research at Cancer Research UK and co-author of the Roadmap said: “All too often, patients are being diagnosed at a late stage, where their cancer is deeply rooted and requires significant intervention, often with poor outcomes.

“This is a human tragedy, not just in terms of lives lost, but it also means more expensive treatments, hospital stays and monitoring. If we can turn this on its head and find cancer at its earliest stages when it’s easier to treat, not only will we be able to save lives on a vast scale, but we will be saving our NHS millions of pounds that would otherwise be needed for costly late stage treatments.

“For the first time, the Roadmap shows us how we can bring together the entire research, commercial and health ecosystem to create a future where lives are not needlessly lost due to late diagnosis.”

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