Cancer detection 'going in wrong direction' says charity boss

cancer scan

Progress on early detection of cancer in Scotland is "going in the wrong direction", a cancer charity has said.

Peter Hastie, from Macmillan Cancer Support, said new statistics showing the stage at which cancers had been detected were "very concerning" .

The figures show early detection rates continuing to fall short of a Scottish government target set six years ago.

They show that just a quarter of people with the most common types of cancer are detected at the earliest stage.

And people living in areas of deprivation were much more likely to have a late diagnosis than those who lived in more affluent areas, according to the figures.

Cancer is one of the biggest causes of death in Scotland, with about 15,800 people dying of a form of the disease in 2016.

In 2012, the Scottish government set a target to improve early detection (stage 1) of the three main cancers - breast, lung and colorectal (bowel) - by 25% by the end of 2015.

Six years on, it is yet to achieve this target.

Figures for year 5 (2015-16) showed a 9.1% increase from the baseline set in 2010/11.

However, the latest figures show the increase from the baseline has reduced to 8.4%.

They show a slightly smaller percentage of all cancers being detected at stage one, down from 25.4% to 25.3%.

Mr Hastie, from Macmillan, said: "There had been some slow progress over the last few years and now it's going in the wrong direction.

"What that means is more and more cancer patients have been diagnosed late and that means more people will die of cancer or, at best, go through the harshest treatment which leaves huge psychological and physical side effects.

"These are really concerning figures today."

Advanced stage

The latest statistics also show a considerable variation between the least and most well-off.

In the poorest areas, 30.3% of those with cancer were diagnosed at the most advanced stage of the disease (stage 4), as opposed to 19.9% in the least deprived.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said it was encouraging that 25% of all breast, lung and bowel cancers in Scotland were detected at the earliest stage.

She said: "It is also promising that our most-deprived communities have seen the largest increase in people diagnosed at the earliest stage of these cancers - an 11.8% increase.

"For lung cancer specifically, there has been a 31% increase in stage one diagnoses in the most-deprived areas since our Detect Cancer Early programme began."

The minister added: "However, more needs to be done to increase this further and we are taking action to tackle the variation in early detection rates between our most and least deprived areas."