South West good, Merseyside bad: for cancer diagnosis where you live matters

New analysis of health data by Cancer Research UK has shown that where you live is a major factor in surviving cancer. The research found that if every region of England was as good as the South West at early cancer diagnosis, almost 20,000 more patients would be diagnosed at the earliest possible stage, increasing their chances of survival.

Between Merseyside (where almost half of patients are diagnosed too late) and the South West (where the figure is 40 per cent) there is a marked difference in the rate of early diagnosis.

Sara Hiom, director of early diagnosis at Cancer Research UK, said: ‘Wherever you live, an early diagnosis of cancer will give you more treatment options and a better chance of survival.’

If Merseyside caught up with the South West, almost 1,000 more patients would be diagnosed at an earlier stage.

The disparities were noticeable in other areas too. Breast cancer diagnosis is late in a quarter of patients in London, compared with just ten per cent in Leicestershire and Lincolnshire.

Merseyside was also at the bottom of the league for bowel cancer diagnosis, with almost 60 per cent of patients diagnosed late compared with 50 per cent in East Anglia.

The chance of cancer survival for some of the most common forms of the disease is up to three times higher when the disease is diagnosed at the earlier stages. Cancer Research UK is launching an early diagnosis campaign, and urges people to visit their GP at the earliest opportunity if they notice possible cancer symptoms.

Dr Jodie Moffat, head of early diagnosis at Cancer Research UK, said: ‘We don’t know for sure why there’s such variation across England and it’s likely that a lot of factors are coming into play. These might include patients not going to their doctor as early as they could with possible cancer symptoms, and GPs sometimes failing to suspect cancer or not referring patients for diagnostic tests promptly.’