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More than 100,000 cases were caught at stages one or two in 2021/22 – 57 percent of those included in the Rapid Cancer Registration Dataset. The figure bounced back from 76,600 the previous year and was above the pre-Covid level of 98,300 in 2019/20.

Prof Peter Johnson, NHS England’s national clinical director for cancer, glass medicine bottles said: “Lives are saved when cancers are caught early and when more people are referred for tests, which is why the NHS has put so much effort into early diagnosis in recent years.

“We know that some people were worried about coming for tests during the pandemic but if you do have any worrying symptoms, please do contact your GP and get checked out.”

Record numbers of people are being checked for the disease following a shortfall during the pandemic.

Four million patients were referred by their GP for suspected cancer between March 2021 and August 2022. The NHS is now launching the next phase of its awareness campaign to highlight symptoms of abdominal and urological cancers.

TV adverts over the next three weeks will urge anyone with tummy troubles, such as discomfort or diarrhoea for three weeks or more, or blood in urine, to contact their GP.

Dame Cally Palmer, NHS England’s national cancer director, said: “Fewer people came forward for cancer checks in the early stages of the pandemic, but thanks to the hard work of staff, we have now identified and caught up on those missing referrals.

“More people are being diagnosed at an early stage – giving patients and their families the best chance of a successful outcome.

“But we will not stop there and NHS staff continue to roll out new initiatives from community scanning trucks to high street checks – making it as easy as possible for those most at risk to get vital, lifesaving tests.”

Health minister Helen Whately said: “Early diagnosis means people have a better chance of successful treatment so this increase in cancer checks is really important.

“I want to see these figures continue to improve, especially as we now have 91 new NHS community diagnostic centres open across the country.

“We continue to do all we can to fight cancer including through the targeted lung health check programme, rolling out ways to diagnose more difficult cancers sooner.”

‘NHS truck check has saved my life’

Grandmother Jacqueline Wells, 57, was diagnosed with cancer after attending a lung health check on an NHS truck.

A CT scan detected the cancer in her upper right lung while it was still at stage one.

People diagnosed with lung cancer at the earliest stage are almost 20 times more likely to survive for five years than those diagnosed later.

Jacqueline, of Luton, said: “I am so lucky the NHS called to invite me for a lung check – had they not, I may not have had the diagnosis early enough and I might not still be here today.

“We discussed my treatment options, including radiotherapy and I decided on my treatment plan. Everyone was so lovely and things moved very quickly.

“After three weeks in hospital, I recovered really well. I now have a chest X-ray every three months and I will be monitored for the next five years.”

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