It’s fair to say that it is unacceptable to wait too long between a diagnosis of cancer and starting treatment. The wait can cause anxiety, stress and spark fears that the cancer will spread. Unfortunately,  you may have to wait more than two months to start treatment. This can be down to various reasons including pressure on your local hospital due to people needing particular types of scans or tests prior to the start of treatment.

Recently, the National Health Service (NHS) in England has been criticised by cancer charities after new data published has revealed that thousands of cancer patients are waiting too long for treatment.

The figures show that the NHS has yet again, missed its 62-day waiting time for May 2017. This means that the target hasn’t been met for 17 months in a row, according to Macmillan Cancer Support.

The target measures how long cancer patients wait from the moment they are urgently referred by their GP with suspected cancer to getting first treatment.

The cancer waiting time figures show:

  • The 62-day target was breached again in May – 81% of patients started treatment within two months after being urgently referred by their GP, against the target of 85%
  • So far in 2017, more than 10,000 people have waited more than two months for treatment to start, including more than 4,000 people who have waited for more than three months
  • The target has now been breached for 17 months in a row and has only been met in one month during the past three years (from June 2014 to May 2017)

Responding to the data, Moira Fraser, director of policy and public affairs at Macmillan Cancer Support said:

“The continued breach of cancer waiting time targets is very disappointing. It’s crucial that anyone diagnosed with cancer receives treatment as soon as possible and that no one is left to endure unnecessary uncertainty before this starts.”

Moira added: “Waiting for diagnosis and treatment isn’t the only difficult and painful period of uncertainty for cancer patients. The health service must also address the ongoing lack of support following treatment.

“Nobody should feel abandoned after the emotional rollercoaster of a cancer diagnosis and treatment.”

The government set the waiting time targets in England and Wales for treating cancer patients. Waiting time targets set by the Scottish Government and the Department of Health in Northern Ireland are the same. The current targets aim that patients wait no more than two months between the date the hospital receives an urgent GP referral for suspected cancer and starting treatment. There is also a target for starting treatment no more than 31 days after the meeting at which you and your doctor agree the treatment plan.

If patients have to wait longer, it should be because they choose to or because they need extra tests to fully diagnose their cancer.

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