A record three million people have received vital NHS cancer tests from March 2021 to Feb 2022 compared to 2.4 million people referred before the pandemic, the latest data revealed.
Even at the peak of the Omicron wave, referrals for suspected cancer were at 116 per cent of pre-pandemic levels with around 11,000 people getting checked every day.
According to the statement, 315,000 patients started treatment for cancer compared to 313,000 before the pandemic.
NHS services across the country now expand their diagnostic capabilities through one-stop shops for tests, mobile clinics and cancer symptom hotlines.
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.
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 in west London.
The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust has 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, and expanding one-stop-shop slots for patients referred under a breast cancer pathway.
Dame Cally Palmer, national cancer director for NHS England, said: “We have seen record numbers of people coming forward for checks in the last year, but we know there are still at least 30,000 who haven’t started treatment due to the pandemic, so it’s vital that we keep these referral rates high.
“While we know this can’t happen overnight, we’re investing in extra diagnostic and treatment capacity to meet increasing demand.”
Professor Peter Johnson, NHS England national clinical director for cancer, said: “It’s vital people continue to come forward, so if you have a sign or symptom that you’re worried about, such as a persistent cough that is not Covid, or prolonged discomfort in the abdomen, please come forward – getting checked out could save your life”.
Since the Prostate Cancer UK campaign ran through February and March, over 550,000 people have used their risk checker with those deemed high risk encouraged to visit their GP.
“I was getting constipation and was forcing myself to go to the loo and then I was seeing blood. I saw the NHS advert on television, and I contacted my GP straight away. By the end of the week I was having a colonoscopy and was told then that I had the cancer. I was in hospital within a couple of weeks for scans and met with a doctor at Derriford Hospital who was absolutely brilliant and explained the special robotic procedure I’d be having. He really put my mind at ease,” said Clive Horsnell, 72, from Devon, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer last year and was treated with advanced robotic surgery at University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust.
“I was back in the following day and it all went really smoothly. The procedure was amazing, I had five holes in my tummy, but they didn’t have to open me up, everything was done inside. The recovery time is so quick, and within a few days I was home.
“I lost my mum when I was 18 with a tumour on the brain, and I have four sisters who have all had cancer, as well as my son. I’m so glad I had that check-up and got the treatment I needed so quickly. I can now get on with my life.”