One third of cancers discovered in emergency wards

Almost a third of cancers in the over-70s are only diagnosed when a patient is admitted to hospital as an emergency according to The National Cancer Intelligence Network which studied almost 750,000 patients in England between 2006-08. Brain and lung cancers were among the most likely to be found this way (British Journal of Cancer).

The study concluded that 38,300 cancers a year among the over-70s, and around 58,400 cancers a year in total were diagnosed through emergency hospital admissions. Over 70 per cent of central nervous system cancers (which include brain cancers) in the over-70s were diagnosed after emergency admissions, as were 55 per cent of pancreatic cancers and 52 per cent of liver cancers; the figure fell to 3 per cent of skin cancers and 5 per cent of breast cancers.

Prof Jane Maher, chief medical officer at Macmillan Cancer Support, said, ’It is appalling that so many cancer patients are still diagnosed through emergency admissions’.

National Cancer Director Prof Sir Mike Richards, who also worked on the study, said people needed to be made more aware of the early signs of hard-to-detect cancers - and that increased knowledge could reduce emergency diagnoses.

The later the diagnosis, the lower the survival time.

July - September Cancer Watch
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