The Brain Tumour Charity CEO, Sarah Lindsell, has co-signed a letter to NHS organisations urging them to meet their one-year survival targets for the early diagnosis of brain tumours
The letter, written by Member of Parliament John Baron of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Cancer, has also been signed by the Chief Executive of the NHS England, the National Cancer Director, and Chief Executives of national charities including Macmillan Cancer Support and Cancer Research UK.
In the letter, John Barron refers to early diagnosis as the 'magic key' if progress is to be made in survival for rarer cancers.
Late diagnosis for brain tumours is common. Around 53% of high grade brain tumours were diagnosed as an emergency in 2013 – more than any other cancer.
Analysis of health data has shown that this delay is linked with poorer survival. Just 28% of people diagnosed with a brain tumour through emergency presentation survive one year following diagnosis compared to 38% diagnosed for suspected cancer through a GP.
The letter has been sent to all 209 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), NHS organisations responsible for promoting and tailoring initiatives at the local level to tackle late diagnosis of cancer.
CCGs are expected to deliver year on year improvements in early diagnosis. A one-year cancer survival target is included in a range of measurements CCGs use to judge their performance on diagnosis, treatment and care in their locality.
Our Director of Services and Influencing, Emma Tingley, attended an APPG on Cancer event to challenge CCGs to do better. Emma argued that whilst one-year survival targets can provoke improvements in performance, early diagnosis is a complicated issue.
Symptoms of a brain tumour are vague and often mimic other conditions. That is why we pushed for the findings behind the HeadSmart campaign to be included in GP guidance for suspected cancer referral. It is also essential that GPs have more direct access to vital scans, like MRI, and have the resources and capacity to analyse and learn why each late diagnosis occurs.
We will continue to promote the HeadSmart early diagnosis campaign to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of a brain tumour in children. And we await the response from CCGs.
If earlier diagnosis is to be a reality, charities and NHS organisations will have to work closer together.
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