Almost a quarter of people diagnosed with the three most common cancers in Scotland had their disease detected at the earliest stage, new figures show.
In 2010 and 2011, 23 per cent of people with either breast, bowel or lung cancer were diagnosed when the disease was at stage one.
Almost two in five (38.2 per cent) breast cancer patients were diagnosed at this stage, and around one in six cases of bowel cancer (17.2 per cent) and one in eight cases of lung cancer (13.1 per cent) were found at stage one.
The higher rate of early detection for breast and bowel cancers may be partly down to Scottish screening programmes for these diseases.
The Scottish Government’s Detect Cancer Early programme, launched in February 2012, aims to increase the percentage diagnosed at stage one by 25 per cent by the end of 2015.
The focus is on breast, bowel and lung cancers, which account for almost half of all cancers in Scotland.
Cancer staging is the process of determining the extent to which a cancer has developed. Staging systems are specific to each cancer, but in general a lower grade indicates a slower-growing, smaller cancer and a higher grade indicates faster-growing disease.
Health Secretary Alex Neil said: “We know that more lives can be saved in Scotland through earlier detection, as the earlier a cancer is diagnosed the greater the chance it can be treated successfully.
“That is why we launched our Detect Cancer Early initiative last year, which aims to increase the percentage of cancers detected at the earliest stage by the end of the parliamentary term.
“To do this we need more people to be aware of the signs and symptoms of cancer, and for people to participate in our screening programmes, as these are the best ways for cancer to be picked up early.
“We have already successfully run our breast cancer drive which saw the number of women going to their GP with breast symptoms increase by 50%. We recently launched our bowel cancer campaign and we plan to run a further lung cancer drive later on this year.”
Dr Claire Knight, health information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: “When cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, treatment is more likely to be successful and many more people survive.
“We hope that the Detect Cancer Early initiative will help get more people diagnosed at the earliest stage, and so contribute to improving cancer survival in Scotland.”
Copyright Press Association 2013