Belfast Telegraph

Patients 'waiting over nine weeks for cancer diagnosis'

By Michael Shiels McNamee

New figures showing that more than a third of patients waited longer than nine weeks for a cancer diagnosis are highly concerning and could be a matter of life and death, according to Cancer Research UK.

The latest Department of Health quarterly statistics yesterday revealed that 36.5% of patients were waiting longer than nine weeks.

The department's target was to get this figure down to 25%.

Nearly one in 10 patients are having to wait for more than six months to receive the potentially life-saving diagnostic tests.

At the end of March, 9,675 patients were facing waits of more than 26 weeks - an increase of more than 3,000 from the same period in 2016.

Cancer Research UK's Margaret Carr described it as "a long-term issue that requires a long-term solution".

Ms Carr added that these delays are a particular concern for sufferers of certain types of cancer where early diagnosis can be vital in saving or extending a person's life.

"This is particularly important in relation to bowel cancer," she said. "If you diagnose someone with the disease when it is at stage one or two, 90% will make it for more than 10 years.

"At stage three or four, less than one in 10 will survive.

"This is why early diagnosis is important and why the delay is a particular issue."

Targets were also being missed in other areas. A total of 253,093 patients were waiting for a first consultant-led outpatient appointment - 6,895 (2.8%) more than at the end of December 2016 (246,198) and 17.6% (37,942) more than the same period last year.

For inpatient and day care, 13.5% (9,615) were waiting more than a year to be seen, a figure which the department aims to get down to zero.

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