The size of the prize for earlier diagnosis of cancer in England

Br J Cancer. 2009 Dec 3;101 Suppl 2(Suppl 2):S125-9. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6605402.


Background: This supplement presents a wide range of observations, reviews, novel research and analyses underpinning the National Awareness and Early Diagnosis Initiative (NAEDI). The preceding three papers present and discuss different aspects of the data from European cancer survival comparison studies. I conclude here by attempting to quantify the extent to which delayed diagnosis in England accounts for observed survival differences and by outlining areas for further research.

Methods: Analysis of indirect evidence related to late diagnosis, surgical intervention rates and utilisation of radiotherapy and chemotherapy in England and other European countries in the late 1990s for breast, colorectal and lung cancer.

Results: Late diagnosis was almost certainly a major contributor to poor survival in England for all three cancers. Low surgical intervention rates are very likely to have contributed to low survival rates for lung cancer and possibly for the other two cancers. Any differences in the use of radiotherapy or chemotherapy are likely to have had only a minor impact on survival differences.

Conclusion: Between 5000 and 10000 deaths within 5 years of diagnosis could be avoided every year in England if efforts to promote earlier diagnosis and appropriate primary surgical treatment are successful. Detailed international benchmarking studies are to be recommended.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms / mortality
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Early Detection of Cancer*
  • England
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality
  • Neoplasms / mortality