The need for urgent cancer diagnosis and screening is becoming more acute by each passing day according to one of the UK’s top cancer experts.
Professor Karol Sikora, chief medical officer at Rutherford Health and former head of the WHO’s cancer programme, is calling for a major effort to ramp up diagnosis after 25 charities including Cancer Research UK wrote a letter to the Prime Minister calling for an urgent action plan.
Professor Sikora stated: “We are currently in the midst of a serious crisis in diagnosis and screening for cancer patients. Like with Covid, testing and diagnosis is the first line of defence against cancer. We can’t treat cancer if we don’t know who has it.
“Pathologists across the UK estimate that biopsies – the key to diagnosing cancer – are running at only 30% of normal. Over 840,000 people are waiting for diagnostic tests and half of those have been waiting for more than six weeks. The number of patients waiting for an MRI, which detects tumours, has shot up by over 1,200%. Cancer doesn’t stop for pandemics or lockdowns. This must be addressed immediately.
“Early cancer diagnosis has been a challenge in the UK in the best of times. The NHS’s 10-year plan unveiled last year laid down a roadmap to enhance and improve diagnosis. Early diagnosis remains the best and most effective weapon against cancer. But we are now in a full-blown diagnostic crisis which was underlined by the joint letter from no fewer than 25 cancer charities.
“We must combat this immediately using all the resources at our disposal. Diagnostic facilities and equipment need to be utilised for cancer screening or we risk walking into a cancer catastrophe.”