Decades ago, the diagnosis of this disease was a ‘death sentence’. Now the outlook is, in the majority of cases, much brighter. However early diagnosis is still crucial.
The sooner that dangerous cancer cells or cancerous tumours are spotted, the quicker that doctors can begin lifesaving surgery – or treatment such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
Yet the concern, in the week that cancer charity Macmillan revealed a large increase in calls to its helplines from patients, is that parts of Yorkshire lag behind the rest of Britain when it comes to the detection of cancer.
Some will say that it is down to the stoicism of people here. Others will blame a lack of awareness about common symptoms. And some will point to shortcomings in GP cover, hence the rise in patients only being diagnosed with cancer after an emergency hospital admission.
If some parts of the country can detect cancer quickly, why not others? This is too important to be left to chance. Not only do all three factors point to a lack of awareness about regular check-ups and screening for common cancers, but they’re another reminder – if one was needed – that access to GP surgeries is crucial.
If people feeling very unwell are told that there is a four week wait for an appointment, as is the case at some of Yorkshire’s surgeries, it lessens their chances of making a full recovery when their cancer is finally diagnosed. That is why the recruitment – and retention – of sufficient GPs is now a national emergency.