A quater of patients diagnosed with cancer after going to London A&E departments will have died within two months, according to research presented at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Cancer Conference in Liverpool today (Monday).

Researchers based at London Cancer* measured the survival of nearly 1,000 patients diagnosed following emergency presentation at 12 A&E departments across north east and central London and west Essex during 2013. Patients diagnosed through emergency routes tend to have more advanced cancers, which contributes to a poorer prognosis.

The researchers found that average** survival was less than six months, with only 36 per cent of patients surviving beyond one year.

Half of all patients under the age of 65 had died by 14 months from diagnosis, with 55 per cent surviving beyond one year. For 65 – 75 year olds, half had died by five months and only 25 per cent made it past one year. And, for patients aged over 75, half had died after just three months, with only a quarter surviving past one year.

These shocking figures hammer home what we already know to be true: early diagnosis can make all the difference in your chances of surviving cancer. Around a quarter of all cancer cases are being diagnosed following presentation in A&E and the vast majority of these are already at a late stage, when treatment options are limited and survival is poorer. And many of the patients diagnosed through A&E have other health conditions that may complicate their treatment. We need to find ways to diagnose patients earlier, and through managed pathways. This is crucial to improving the UK’s cancer survival to the standard of comparable countries.

Professor Kathy Pritchard-Jones, study author


England’s one-year survival is poorer than comparable countries and one reason may be that we’re diagnosing too many cancers at a late stage. We need to make sure that more patients are diagnosed earlier, when more treatment options are available and they are more effective. We know that emergency presentation is an issue across the country – not just in London – and this has to change if we’re going to achieve world-class cancer survival in the UK.

Professor Charles Swanton, chair of the 2015 NCRI Cancer Conference