Government announces plans for earlier diagnosis for cancer patients

The announcement forms part of how the government will achieve its ambition to see 55,000 more people in England surviving cancer every year.

As part of the long-term plan for the NHS, a package of measures will be rolled out across the country with the aim of seeing 3 out of 4 of all cancers detected at an early stage by 2028.

The plan will:

  • overhaul screening programmes
  • provide new investment in state-of-the-art technology to transform the process of diagnosis
  • boost research and innovation

Screening programmes will be made more accessible and easier to use. They will be based on the latest breakthrough research and technology. Those at risk will be able to benefit from options including:

  • new tests for bowel cancer
  • mobile lung screening units
  • the roll-out of rapid diagnostic centres across the country with same-day testing

Patients diagnosed early, at stages 1 or 2, have the best chance of long-term survival. For example, 96% of people with colorectal cancer diagnosed at stage 1 will survive one year or more, compared with 46% diagnosed at stage 4.

At present, 52% of the top 10 cancers are diagnosed at stages 1 and 2. The government aims to increase this to 75% by 2028.

As part of the new measures the government will:

  • use artificial intelligence (AI) to better target at-risk populations and bring screening closer to home
  • lower the recommended starting age for bowel cancer screening from 60 to 50 and adopt a new easier to use test (the Faecal Immunochemical Test) which detects cancer at an earlier stage
  • speed up access to ground-breaking treatments with quicker translation of new breakthroughs into practice, through investment in world-leading cancer research centres

Funding for today’s announcement will be allocated through NHS England’s long-term plan.