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Northern Ireland has longest bowel cancer diagnosis time in UK

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Concern: Margaret Carr

Concern: Margaret Carr

Concern: Margaret Carr

It is worrying that patients in Northern Ireland are waiting longer than anywhere else in the UK to receive a bowel cancer diagnosis, a leading charity has said.

Margaret Carr, Cancer Research UK's public affairs manager in Northern Ireland, said it was "unacceptable" that the province remained the only part of the UK and Ireland without a strategy for cancer - our number one killer.

Patients here wait an average of 64 days, with Scots only having to wait 38.

But once patients in Northern Ireland are diagnosed, they begin their treatment faster than the other home nations.

Across the UK, one in 10 bowel cancer patients can wait a year to start treatment.

Across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, 10% of patients can wait for 12 months from first spotting a symptom to beginning treatment, according to a group of international researchers.

Ms Carr said: "It's worrying that some patients in Northern Ireland are waiting so long to receive a bowel cancer diagnosis and begin their treatment.

"This is further evidence of the significant problems in cancer services here.

"Diagnosing bowel cancer relies on trained endoscopists and pathologists, and there have long been shortages of these vital health professionals.

"Ensuring cancer services are adequately staffed and have the right equipment so patients receive the tests they need in good time must be a priority. The recent news that the Department of Health will 'reconsider' producing a cancer strategy is a welcome development. We hope the outcome of this will be positive, and work can begin on a plan for preventing, diagnosing, treating and researching this devastating disease.

"Cancer is Northern Ireland's number one killer and it's unacceptable that we are the only part of the UK and Ireland without a current strategy."

Meanwhile, the average time from first noticing a symptom to starting treatment varied across the regions studied, with people in Wales waiting an average of 168 days compared to just 77 days in Denmark.

The new study, published in the journal BMJ Open, compared countries with similar healthcare systems including the four nations of the UK, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Manitoba in Canada and Victoria in Australia.

The authors examined questionnaires completed by more than 2,800 patients and their doctors between 2015 and 2017, as well as their health records.

Belfast Telegraph