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ONS cancer survivability statistics - why speed of diagnosis is vital

Doctor giving news to a patient
17th August 2016

In 2016, around 1000 people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer each day according to MacMillan Cancer Support.

The stage at which the disease is identified is vital. It can mean the difference between the need for more intensive treatment or a quick recovery.

This post looks at the four stages of cancer development, the importance of a quick diagnosis and what support is available if you suffer a delay in treatment.

The stages of cancer:

The ONS (Office for National Statistics) released figures in early 2016 which revealed that one-year cancer survivability in England has increased between 1998 and 2013.

No doubt this is thanks to improved diagnosis and treatment.

The figures demonstrate a link between early and late stage diagnosis and the chances of survival over 12 months.

This re-enforces how each stage plays a crucial role in determining chances of overcoming cancer.

The four stages in the disease that can be identified are:

  • Stage one: The earliest stage that typically means that the cancer is limited to a specific area and has not had chance to spread to surrounding tissues. This gives a patient the best possible chance of survival.
  • Stage two: Similar to stage one in that the cancer has still not started to spread but is larger in size.
  • Stage three: Again the cancer is larger in size however, the disease may now have spread to surrounding tissue and lymph nodes in the area.
  • Stage four: This is the most severe stage of cancer and means that it has now spread to another organ or organs and requires extensive forms of treatment.

Despite the importance in identifying cancer as early as possible, this urgency is heightened for certain types.

Lung cancer is a particularly aggressive form of the disease so it’s vital that it is caught early. For example, 84% of men have a one-year cancer survivability rate when it is caught at stage one, compared to 42% at stage three and only 15% at stage four.

Ovarian cancer also offers a poor prognosis with only 51% of women surviving over a year at stage four compared to 99% at stage one. 

The need for urgency

Chances of survival are 100% for some cancers if caught at stage one, so the importance of screening and quick diagnosis is clear.

Delays in finding and treating the disease can mean the difference between living for years after an initial diagnosis and a significantly increased chance of relapse.

Targets set by the government state that:

  • There should be no more than 2 months wait between the date the hospital receives an urgent GP referral for suspected cancer and the patient starting to receive treatment
  • The starting of treatment should be no more than 31 days after the meeting at which you and your doctor agree the treatment plan

Although these targets are in place, delays can sometimes occur.

These delays can impact on a patient’s condition and decrease the chance of survivability over the next 12 months. 

Available support

Many cancers have never had better survivability rates but situations still occur where needless delays in diagnosis result in unnecessary pain and distress.

These can require financial and practical support both during treatment and recovery or when a family’s livelihood is threatened by the death of a principal income earner.

Your Legal Friend is here to identify whether a claim can be made and offer professional support throughout the process. You can contact us confidentially by calling: 0808 159 6456