2.1 The Detect Cancer Early programme (1) was launched by the Cabinet Secretary in February 2012. Its aim was to bring improvements in survival for people with cancer in Scotland to amongst the best in Europe by diagnosing and treating the disease at an earlier stage. Current 5-year survival rates from cancer in Scotland are considerably lower than other European countries, and when analysed further, this difference occurs mostly in the first year after diagnosis, suggesting that advanced stage at disease presentation contributes to this survival deficit.
2.2 To support delivery of the aims of the programme, a HEAT (2) target was agreed for NHS Boards:
To increase the proportion of people diagnosed and treated in the first stage of breast, colorectal and lung cancer by 25% by 2015.
2.3 Breast, colorectal and lung cancers were chosen to be included as they are the most common in Scotland accounting for 45% of all cancers in 2011. By using these three tumour groups, the impact of the interventions can be evaluated and lessons learned applied to other cancer types in the future.
2.4 The programme brings additional benefits which, although difficult to measure, are also important and will contribute to improvements in the quality of patient care. One of these is the timely production and better recording and reporting of data on stage at diagnosis, which helps to inform local multidisciplinary cancer team decision-making and clinical audit. Another benefit is that the various components of the Programme, in particular social marketing interventions are likely to encourage earlier diagnosis in general and result in an overall 'leftward' shift for all stages i.e. moving from stage 4 to stage 3, stage 3 to stage 2 and stage 2 to stage 1.
Email: Sara Conroy