ALMOST half of cancer patients in the south west are diagnosed too late to give them the best chance of survival, according to new figures released by Cancer Research UK.

In just one year, around 12,800 cancer patients in the south west are diagnosed late (at stage three or four) and around 7,400 of these are diagnosed at the most advanced stage – stage 4 – leaving them with fewer treatment options and less chance of surviving their disease.

In England, almost half of all cancers with a known stage are diagnosed late. In 2017, this was around 115,000 cancer patients. And of these, around 67,000 people are diagnosed at the most advanced stage – stage 4.

Cancer Research UK say there are lots of things that can influence how early or late someone is diagnosed but workforce shortages are a large contributor.

The charity says there is a desperate shortage of NHS medical staff trained to carry out tests that diagnose cancer, which means efforts by the health system to diagnose and treat cancer more swiftly are being thwarted.

Alison Birkett, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for the south west, said: “NHS staff are working tirelessly to offer the best care possible, and the NHS is implementing important new initiatives to address late diagnosis and improve staff efficiency.

“But there just aren’t enough of the right staff available on the ground now, and there are no plans to significantly increase the numbers needed to transform the health service.

“This is why we are calling on people in the South West to add their names to our petition calling on the Government to train and employ more NHS staff to diagnose and treat cancer early.”

Cancer Research UK is calling on everyone in the region to support its Shoulder to Shoulder campaign and take a stand to save more lives.

Last year, the Government pledged to improve the number of people diagnosed with early stage cancer – a jump from two in four diagnosed early to three in four by 2028. This could save thousands of lives. Cancer Research UK has calculated that to reach this target, an extra 100,000 patients must be diagnosed early in England each year by 2028.