Recent figures released by the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) show that a large percentage of cancer diagnoses take place in A&E. For about a quarter of all those diagnosed with cancer, it’s first spotted in the emergency process – and for people over the age of 70, the fraction is even higher, with nearly a third of diagnoses being in A&E.

Of course, it’s very well known that early diagnosis of cancer can mean more effective treatment and a higher survival rate.  So why is it that so many are diagnosed in this way?

For cancers that are more easy to detect in their earlier stages, such as breast cancer, the percentage of emergency admissions is low, so in some respects the figures show that earlier detection of these types of the disease would appear to be at better levels. However, for some other types of cancer it seems that the disease is often diagnosed in emergency when the patient has been brought in for other reasons, and health professionals are alerted to it only when the patient is subject to routine tests.

There are some good resources available online with info on cancer, with private health insurance providers and cancer charities having dedicated parts of their websites with info on things like healthy eating and other important ways to help lower the risk of the disease. There’s also information available on the NHS choices website.

The figure for older people being diagnosed in emergency will no doubt be of concern to the government as the UK population is ageing, and it may well be that in the coming years new screening technologies will make it cheaper and easier to detect cancer in older people.

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