NHS patients with suspected cancer will be diagnosed faster under new measures for treating the disease, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will announce today.
The new "more patient-centred" plans will mean that from 2020 patients will be given a definitive cancer diagnosis leading to treatment - or the all-clear - within 28 days of being referred by a GP.
The new measure amends the previous target, which meant that patients with suspected cancer must see a specialist within 14 days of being referred by their GP. The investigation period which followed this had no previous limit.
Health experts believe the new method could save up to 11,000 lives a year
Officials said the new standard will make sure that cancer services are delivered more effectively around the needs of patients and their families, by limiting the period of uncertainty and fear that arises when people think they may have cancer.
They said the new target will be underpinned by an expected £300 million more spent on diagnostics a year by 2020.
Mr Hunt said: "For people who are worried they may have cancer, waiting for that all-important test result is a nerve-wracking time.
"We have a duty to make sure this period of uncertainty is as short as possible. For those who get the all-clear, they will have peace of mind sooner.
"Those who sadly have cancer will get treatment much quicker and we will save thousands of lives as a result."
The action follows a recommendation from the Independent Cancer Taskforce report, set up as part of the NHS's Five Year Forward View, to examine how to improve cancer care and survival rates.
The NHS will identify five hospitals across the UK to pilot the new target before the programme is rolled out nationally to cover all cancers by 2020.
Mr Hunt also announced measures including a "tailored recovery package" being developed for every person surviving cancer, more personalised treatment and better support to live well, with and beyond the disease.
NHS England will implement the Independent Cancer Taskforce's recommendations on molecular diagnostics, meaning around 20,000 additional people a year will have their cancers genetically tested to identify the most effective treatments, reducing unnecessary chemotherapy sessions.
Patients will also be given more control of their information and will be able to access personal health information such as information on treatment and tests results online.
Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK's chief executive and chairman of the Independent Cancer Taskforce, said: "These commitments are going to save thousands of lives and deliver a step change in patient experience and quality of life, so this is fantastic news.
"Diagnosing more cancers earlier could transform patients' lives as it improves survival.
"But we've shown that services for diagnosing cancer are under immense pressure, which is why increased investment and extra staff are so important.
"Introducing the 28-day ambition for patients to receive a diagnosis will maximise the impact of this investment which, together with making results available online, will spare people unnecessary added anxiety and help cancer patients to begin treatment sooner."