Cancer patients in appalling state of limbo
More than 100,000 people had to wait over 2 weeks to see a cancer specialist in the UK last year.
And 25,153 patients were forced to wait more than 62 days to start cancer treatment. The statistics were collated by the House of Commons Library at the request of shadow secretary, John Ashworth.
Thousands in state of limbo
A spokesperson for cancer charity Macmillan said that delays to see a specialist, have diagnostic tests and then start cancer treatment are leaving “thousands of people in an appalling state of limbo.” While the Royal College of Radiologists fears that waits beyond the supposed maximums may also reduce chances of survival.
“Any delay risks a growth in the cancer”
President of the Royal College of Radiologists, Dr Nicola Strickland, said; “Any delay in diagnosis or time to start therapy risks a growth in the cancer, potentially making it incurable. These delays increase the anxiety experienced by patients and their relatives at this difficult time.” Difficulty in meeting demand means that 230,000 each year are also having to wait over a month for the results of X-rays and scans, she added.
“Any delay in diagnosis or time to start therapy risks a growth in the cancer.”
“230,000 each year are also having to wait over a month for the results of X-rays and scans.”
The wait to start cancer treatment
Cancer targets specify that 93% of patients must see a specialist within 14 days of being referred for suspected cancer.
96% should have their first treatment within 31 days. And 85% of those feared to have a new primary cancer should start cancer treatment within 62 days. We asked you for your reaction to the targets and delays. Here’s what you said.
Speaking of the findings, she said; “It’s shocking. The worry for patients and their families during this period is totally debilitating. And on top of this it means that the cancer is growing unchecked. Where the cancer is aggressive, the delay in starting cancer treatment may threaten lives. And it will certainly add to the overall costs of care. We really have to address this. It’s just not acceptable in a modern and civilised society.”
He shared; “Of course those figures will never be good enough. And we must strive to improve things. Yet, we must look at the current reality of the NHS, which whether we like it or not doesn’t have the resources it needs. You can use statistics to prove anything you want. And somewhere, someone will be working to prioritise the cancer treatment that people need. Not every case of cancer is actually life threatening. But if you’ve got cancer, you don’t want to hear that your treatment will take longer than you thought.”
“Call someone if you feel its taking too long”
Jo Taylor developed primary breast cancer when she was on maternity leave aged 38. Married with two young children, her son was 2 and her daughter was 5 months old. She launched After Breast Cancer Diagnosis to help breast cancer patients in a similar position. Then developed secondary breast cancer a year later.
She said; “Waiting 62 days (9 weeks!) to start cancer treatment is unacceptable. There may be reasons or diagnostics that need addressing before you start. But this shouldn’t be happening. There needs to be a specific reason for waiting so long. All I would say is, don’t wait. Call someone if you feel it’s taking too long. The worry that the cancer is spreading is horrible. Most times this will not be the case but people will still think that.”