Why is early cancer detection so important?
October 10, 2023
You may have seen our post introducing our Social Action Lead, Rhian Davies and talking about her additional role and what it means. We thought we’d explore it further and explain why early detection is so important.
Quite simply, early detection saves lives. There are many different types of cancer and according to some recent statistics, 50% of people in the UK, and 38% of those cancer cases are preventable, which works out to more than 135,000 every year, such as lung, bowel, melanoma, and breast cancer. Early detection can help prevent or cure the cancer, before it spreads to other organs or tissues and improve the chances of successful treatment and survival. It can also reduce the physical, emotional and financial burden that people may face when diagnosed.
For us at One Wirral, promoting early detection and working in the community to help raise awareness leans into our mission – improving the health and wellbeing for people in Wirral. It is also really important for reducing cost and pressure on the NHS, which is another area that we are particularly passionate about. Helping to promote early detection will lead to less pressure for the NHS and those who work in it, as well as other benefits because:
- Treating cancer at an early stage is often less expensive and less complex than treating it at a later stage.
- Can reduce the need for palliative care, hospital admissions, and emergency visits
- It can improve the quality and safety of cancer care. For example, detecting cancer early can reduce the risk of complications, infections, and unwanted events during treatment.
- Help and improve patient satisfaction, confidence, and trust in the health system.
- Can support the achievement of national and international goals and targets. For example, the NHS Long Term Plan wants to diagnose 75% of cancers at stage 1 or 2 by 2028, and to save 55,000 more lives each year by 2033
- Contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals, such as reducing premature death from non-communicable diseases and better delivery of health care
What are some the challenges for early detection?
Despite the benefits of early detection, there are still some challenges and barriers that prevent people from accessing screening or seeking help for symptoms. For example:
- Lack of awareness or knowledge about cancer, screening and symptoms
- Fear, stigma or embarrassment about cancer or screening tests
- Difficulties or inconvenience in attending screening appointments or seeing a GP such as language barriers, not being able to physically attend
- Low uptake or participation in screening programmes, especially among certain groups such as men, ethnic minorities and people from deprived areas
- Delays or errors in diagnosis, referral or treatment
- Inadequate or unequal access to high-quality screening, diagnostic and treatment services
To try and reduce these challenges and improve early detection, we at One Wirral are working a a local level with other organisations to help. There are also some other initiatives that are being put into place or planned by the NHS, the government and other organisations. Some of these include:
- Raising awareness and education about cancer, screening and symptoms among the public and health professionals
- Providing information and support to help people make more informed decisions about screening and symptom checking
- Improving the accessibility and quality of screening programmes, such as using new technologies, expanding the criteria for those that could be eligible, increasing the number or intensity of screenings, and offering more personalised screening
- Improving the pathway for how people get referred or diagnosed, such as using new tests, reducing waiting times, improving communication and coordination, and ensuring equity and consistency.
- Investing in research and innovation to develop new and better ways of detecting cancer early, such as using biomarkers (checks used to perform a clinical assessment such as blood pressure or cholesterol), imaging, artificial intelligence or paying closer attention to people’s genes
- Working with organisations in different sectors and key members to look at wider impacts of health and cancer, such as smoking, obesity, alcohol, diet, physical activity and environmental factors
What have we learnt?
Detecting cancer early is crucial for improving the prevention, treatment and survival of cancer. The NHS offers various evidence-based screening programmes and encourages people to be aware of their symptoms and see a GP if they have any concerns. However, there are still some challenges and barriers that need to be addressed to ensure that everyone can benefit from early detection, which is why we want to help raise awareness and work collaboratively – by working together, we can achieve the ambitious goal of diagnosing 75% of cancers at stage 1 or stage 2 by 2028, and ultimately save more lives from this sadly more common disease.
Should you wish to find out more about where you can find our Social Action Lead, Rhian Davis, please follow us on our social media platforms where we will post her updates, or contact us directly.