DoH targets breast and bowel cancer

Proposals to improve cancer care by increasing access, reducing waiting times and expanding screening for breast and bowel cancer have been announced by the DoH.

The plans, set out in a new cancer reform strategy, aim to guarantee an appointment with a specialist within just two weeks of referral for all patients with breast problems, not just those with suspected cancer.

Other plans include an expansion of the 62-day referral-to-treatment guarantee. Currently, only those referred as an urgent case by their GP are guaranteed treatment within 62 days.

The plans will allow specialists in hospitals and screening centres to fast track patients, putting them on a level with those referred urgently by their GP.

The DoH also recommends that cervical screening results should be made available within 14 days. At present, over half of patients have to wait six weeks or more for their results.

The age range for breast screening will be extended to years 47-73 over time, while the age of bowel screening will be extended from 70 up to 75 from 2010.

DoH cancer czar Professor Mike Richards said that the new extensions to the breast and bowel cancer screening programmes would drive up survival rates in England.

But RCGP spokeswoman Dr Sarah Jarvis questioned where the money and the staff would come from.

'Breast radiologists will be swamped with work,' she said.

Increasing the age for breast and bowel screening was no bad thing, but it was more important to complete the nationwide roll-out of the bowel-screening programme, added Dr Jarvis.

DoH proposals

  • Guaranteed appointment with specialist within two weeks for breast problems.
  • Expansion of 62-day referral-to-treatment guarantee.
  • Cervical screening results within 14 days.
  • Extending age range of breast and bowel screening.
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