Hundreds of 'missing' cancer diagnoses in west Hertfordshire boroughs in 2020 – as fewer found at early stage

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Cancer Research UK has urged the Government to improve outcomes for people with cancer and take services in England from being "world-lagging to world-leading".

Hundreds fewer cancers were diagnosed in west Hertfordshire boroughs in 2020, figures show – a year which also saw a fall in the proportion found at an early stage.

In the former NHS Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Croups area, there were 2,766 cancers diagnosed in 2020 – 325 fewer than the year before, when there were 3,091 diagnoses, according to the latest figures from NHS Digital.

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Of those that were diagnosed, breast cancer was the most common, accounting for 14.8% of diagnoses. This was followed by prostate (12.7%) and lung (10.3%) cancer.

Here are the NHS figures for west Hertfordshire boroughsHere are the NHS figures for west Hertfordshire boroughs
Here are the NHS figures for west Hertfordshire boroughs

The figures show that alongside a drop in the number of cancers diagnosed in west Hertfordshire boroughs, the proportion found at an early stage also fell – 52.6% of cancers with a valid stage were diagnosed early in 2020, down from 56% in 2019.

Jon Shelton, head of cancer intelligence at Cancer Research UK, said the coronavirus pandemic caused huge disruption to cancer care, but added that a "crisis" facing cancer services was accelerated rather than caused by it.

He said: “We have been sounding the alarm on the importance of early diagnosis for years.

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"Right now, the Government is falling short of its manifesto promise of improving cancer outcomes in the UK and significantly improving cancers diagnosed at their earliest stage.

"We need Steve Barclay to step up and commit to a comprehensive and fully funded 10-year cancer plan which transforms our cancer services from world-lagging to world-leading."

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care did not respond to the cancer diagnosis figures, but said the department is "laser focused" on tackling cancer waiting lists across England, adding that 160 community diagnostic centres are being rolled out in a bid to tackle the backlogs caused by the pandemic.

"These one-stop shops have already delivered over 2.7 million life-saving tests, checks and scans," they added.

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“We continue to do all we can to fight cancer and we recently announced a new partnership with BioNTech to boost research into vaccines for cancer with the potential to transform outcomes for cancer patients.”

In July 2022, clinical commissioning groups were replaced with integrated care boards across England.