Cornwall hospitals are not meeting wait time targets for breast cancer treatment.
The revelation follows the tragic death of Girls Aloud singer Sarah Harding from the illness last month.
NHS targets say most people urgently referred by their GP with suspected breast cancer should see a specialist within 14 days. Once diagnosed, patients should begin treatment within two months (62 days) of referral.
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However, many people with suspected breast cancer are not assessed and treated within this time frame – the chances of being seen quickly often boil down to your zip code.
In July this year, almost all Cornwall patients with suspected breast cancer saw a specialist within two weeks, to 99%, which is above the NHS target of 93%.
Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust – which operates the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro, West Cornwall Hospital in Penzance and St Michael’s Hospital in Hayle – ranks sixth nationwide on this target.
Of 253 patients with symptoms of breast cancer, only two were not seen by a specialist within 14 days.
However, Cornwall hospitals have not met other breast cancer targets. Another 167 patients were screened for symptoms of breast cancer, such as a lump or discharge, but they were not initially thought to have cancer.
Of these elective patients, two-thirds (67%) were seen by a specialist within 14 days – well below the target of 93%.
Meanwhile, only three-quarters (73%) of the 19 people who were actually diagnosed with breast cancer in July started treatment two months after being urgently referred by their GP. This figure is below the NHS target of 85%, which takes into account patients who are unfit for treatment or who choose to delay it.
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK. Most women diagnosed with breast cancer are over 50, but younger women can also get breast cancer.
About 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. There is a good chance of recovery if it is detected at an early stage.
For this reason, it is essential that women regularly check their breasts for any changes and always have any changes examined by a general practitioner.
In rare cases, men can also be diagnosed with breast cancer. Learn more about breast cancer in men.
For more information visit the NHS website.visit the NHS website.
Two Cornwall patients waited up to three months to start treatment, while one patient waited more than three months.
Cornwall’s assessment figures are better than in neighboring Devon, where only half (57 percent) of suspected breast cancer cases were urgently referred to a specialist in time. The Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust is one of the worst performers in the country against this target.
However, Cornwall is just as bad as Devon when it comes to treatment, with both counties seeing 73% of cases start treatment within 62 days of their emergency referral.
Prompt diagnosis and treatment are often essential to prevent breast cancer from progressing and becoming fatal.
Harding said in her autobiography that she regretted not seeing a doctor sooner after finding a lump under her arm in December 2019.
But even when people see their GPs quickly, delays in diagnosis and treatment have become more common in recent years – with the pandemic making matters worse.
Two-fifths of trusts across England failed to meet the two-week target in July, while more than half (52%) failed to meet the 62-day target for processing.
Five years ago, 96% of patients diagnosed with breast cancer after being urgently referred by their GP started treatment within 62 days. But by 2020-2021, looking at the year as a whole, that figure had fallen to 85%, meaning 3,701 patients across England waited too long for potentially life-saving care.
Wait time targets have now been missed for seven consecutive months.
Baroness Delyth Morgan, Managing Director of Breast Cancer Now, said: “The fact that all vital breast cancer wait time targets were missed for the seventh consecutive month in July is another stark reminder of how the Covid-19 pandemic continues to have a devastating effect. impact on vital cancer services.
“It is promising to see a number of people with possible symptoms of breast cancer return to pre-pandemic levels, but of deep concern that the percentage of these women seen by a specialist is still below target.
“Almost 11,000 women in the UK could have been living with undiagnosed breast cancer at the end of 2020 due to the pandemic and as more women come forward, combined with the growing backlog of breast cancer screening, our already overburdened imaging and diagnostic workforce faces a significant challenge.
“UK governments must invest in a fully funded long-term strategic plan to ensure that women are diagnosed quickly and can begin treatment for breast cancer as quickly as possible, giving them the best chance of survival. .
“We urge women to continue to attend their breast cancer screening appointments when invited and to contact their GP if they discover new or unusual breast changes. successful treatment is likely to be.
“For more information and support, speak to our expert nurses by calling our toll-free helpline on 0808 800 6000.”
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