The NHS once again supports World Cancer Day to help raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of cancer and to encourage people to visit their GP for potentially lifesaving checks if they have a symptom.

World Cancer Day, which was on Saturday (4 February), is a great reminder of the importance of visiting your GP if something doesn’t feel right and you are worried about cancer. It’s probably nothing serious but even if it is, getting your diagnosis earlier can give you more treatment options and ultimately, a better chance of success.  

The NHS Long Term Plan sets out its commitment to improve uptake of cancer screening and early cancer diagnosis. A number of initiatives are helping the NHS realise its ambitions: 

Digital investment: Patients throughout the West Midlands will benefit from a digital pathology programme, introduced in November 2022 and designed to help reduce cancer backlogs, transform services, and improve the speed and accuracy of cancer diagnosis.  The programme gives pathologists the digital tools needed to better collaborate, share expertise and capacity, prioritise urgent cases and manage growing demand across the entire region.

NHS Galleri trial: Over the last two years, almost 18,500 people from across the West Midlands have volunteered to take part in the world’s largest trial of a blood test that can detect more than 50 types of cancer, as part of the NHS’s drive to catch the disease when it is generally easiest to treat. The trial is ongoing; initial results from the Galleri study are expected later this year. If successful, NHS England plans to extend the rollout to a further one million people in 2024 and 2025. 

Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT): Last year, home-testing kits that can help detect early-stage bowel cancer were rolled out to 58-year-olds in the West Midlands for the first time, as part of a major expansion of the lifesaving screening programme.  The NHS Long Term Plan committed to lowering the age of those eligible for home-testing kits to everyone aged 50 and above by 2025.   

New breast cancer screening units: Last month, the Government pledged an additional £10 million to speed up breast cancer diagnosis and treatment by providing 29 new NHS breast cancer screening units across England and nearly 70 life-saving upgrades to services in areas where they are most needed. A new unit in the West Midlands will be at The Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, while upgraded screening services are planned for Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust; The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust; and Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust.

Targeted lung health checks: The targeted lung health check programme (TLHC) offers lung health checks to participants aged 55 to 74 who are current or former smokers. The programme aims to improve earlier diagnosis of lung cancer, at a stage when it is much more treatable. The programme is currently established in 23 places with some of the highest rates of mortality from lung cancer and it is estimated that around 6,000 cancers will be diagnosed earlier than would otherwise have been. Sites in the West Midlands are at Stoke, Coventry, Birmingham and Sandwell.

Sarah Hughes, Managing Director of the Midlands Cancer Alliances, said: “We are making great strides in the diagnosis and treatment of different cancers in the West Midlands and beyond. 

“This World Cancer Day, it’s important that people know not to carry the worry of cancer with them; if something in your body doesn’t feel right, contact your GP practice. We know that cancers are more likely to be treated successfully if caught at an early stage and that’s why it’s so important to spread the word far and wide and encourage people with potential signs of cancer to come forward. The NHS is here and wants to see you.”