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A record year for people receiving lifesaving NHS cancer checks

Almost three million people were referred for cancer checks over the last 12 months – the highest year on record – up by over a tenth on the 2.4 million people referred before the pandemic.

NHS cancer chiefs continue to urge people to come forward as the latest data shows that record numbers of people have received vital NHS cancer tests in the last year (March 2021 – February 2022).

Even at the peak of the Omicron wave, referrals for suspected cancer were at 116% of pre-pandemic levels with around 11,000 people getting checked every day over the last year.

Health chiefs have doubled spending on cancer awareness campaigns and continue to encourage people to come forward for checks if invited by the NHS or if they have experienced any worrying symptoms.

Despite pressures on hospitals due to Covid-19, the number of people being treated for the disease remained higher than before the pandemic – with 315,000 starting treatment b compared to 313,000 before the pandemic.

In order to meet increasing demand for cancer checks, NHS services across the country are expanding their diagnostic capabilities through one stop shops for tests, mobile clinics and cancer symptom hotlines, ensuring people are diagnosed and treated as early as possible to give them a much better chance of beating the disease.

More than 30,000 people every month are being invited for lung cancer checks through NHS mobile trucks visiting at risk communities across the country, as part of the biggest programme to improve early lung cancer diagnosis in health service history.

In London, the first ‘Man Van’ programme, developed by The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, RM Partners West London Cancer Alliance, and The Institute of Cancer Research, London, is rolling out to provide free health checks for men and boost early diagnosis of prostate and other urological cancers.

The van, currently in New Addington, previously visited workplaces and churches in the South West London area, focusing on men of working age who often have worse prostate cancer outcomes than older men, and black men, who have roughly double the risk of developing prostate cancer and an increased risk of death once diagnosed. It is now open to the public and will be visiting various locations within West London.

At The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust, they have introduced telephone triage for certain cancer referrals so that patients can speak to doctors sooner, as well as increasing the use of ‘straight-to-test’ pathways for lower gastrointestinal patients to get diagnosed as early as possible, and expanding one-stop-shop slots for patients referred under a breast cancer pathway, so patients can get all their tests in one trip.

NHS staff have gone to great lengths to maintain cancer treatment for patients and since March 2020, more than 4.7m have been referred and more than half a million people have started treatment.

Common symptoms of cancer include lumps or bumps and unexplained weight loss or fatigue.

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