Urgent suspected cancer referrals standard:
74.8% of people were seen by a specialist within 2 weeks of an urgent suspected cancer referral in August 2023. The target is 93% and was last met in May 2020.
Only 62.8% of people in England received their diagnosis and started their first treatment within 2 months (or 62 days) of an urgent referral in August 2023. This is well below the target of 85%, which has not been met since 2015, with a record low in January 2023.
Faster diagnosis standard:
71.6% of people were diagnosed, or had cancer ruled out, within 28 days of an urgent referral in August 2023. The target is 75% and has never been met since its introduction in October 2021.
91% of people started treatment within 31 days of doctors deciding a treatment plan in August 2023. The target is 96%.
What can you do if you're waiting to see a cancer specialist for a diagnosis?
If you are waiting to see a specialist, there are things you can do:
- Waiting to hear about cancer can be an anxious time. Understanding what to expect can help you feel more in control.
- You could research what will happen at your appointment and write down a list of questions to ask the consultant when you are seen.
- If you have not been seen within the target 2-week timescale, we encourage you to chase the hospital for your appointment.
How we can help:
- Chasing your appointment on your behalf
- Providing information on what to expect to provide reassurance
- Helping you collate a list of questions for your cancer specialist
- Guiding you through how to seek help and who is best to go to
- Easing anxiety by speaking to a Cancer Nurse who can answer your questions and attend to your concerns
Cancer Nurse Specialist at Reframe, Rebecca Minton, says "we encourage you to keep pushing to be seen if you have not heard within the target timescale. We can help chase your appointment on your behalf to ensure you get access to care and to take the pressure and time of chasing off you."
What can you do if you're waiting for cancer treatment?
When you are given your diagnosis, you can ask to be given approximate timescales for treatment, so you know what to expect. Approximate timescales can also be found online, but do vary in different areas.
To help relieve any anxiety and make you feel more in control, before you start your treatment you could:
- Research to understand more about what happens during your treatment
- Learn more about what to expect after treatment
- Make any lifestyle changes to improve your physical or emotional wellbeing ahead of treatment
- Speak to friends and family about your feelings and ask for their support
How we can help:
- Chasing your appointments for treatment
- Chasing reports from investigations to ensure they are received and reviewed by your specialist
- Providing information about what to expect so you feel prepared and more in control
- Providing information about treatments, side effects, and how you may feel post-treatment (whether that's from chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery)
- Giving you hints and tips on what you can do before treatment to improve your physical or emotional wellbeing
- Providing information on pre-hab activities you can do, relevant to your planned treatment
- Providing information on alternative complementary therapies for relaxation or symptom control
- Providing reassurance by answering any of your questions or attending to your concerns
- Arranging second opinions if you would like to, while you are waiting for treatment to start
We can provide ongoing support until treatment begins and beyond - so you have someone to turn to whenever you have a question or concern. Research suggests that the more prepared you are, the better the outcome.
Reframe Cancer Nurse Specialist, Rebecca, advises "Do not read too much on the internet or social media, seek advice from a reliable source such as Reframe, Macmillan or Cancer Research UK. Start to document questions you may want to ask at your next appointment and ensure someone is going to come along with you to make notes, as you may not be able to retain all of the information."
"Whilst waiting for treatment, you could make some changes to improve your physical and mental health. Lifestyle changes like: maintaining a good diet, getting adequate sleep, exercising regularly, and stopping smoking or drinking alcohol in excess. If you are struggling to sleep; meditation, exercising or getting fresh air can help. Using complementary therapies for relaxation and symptom control can also be a good use of this time. Furthermore, doing pre-hab exercises can make a big difference, such as breathing exercises to help recover after an anaesthetic, pelvic floor exercises to improve recovery post-op after prostate or female gynaecological surgery, or arm and shoulder exercises for breast surgery."
There could still be thousands of missing cancer cases. Are you concerned about getting symptoms checked?
Researching who you can seek advice from or be seen by can help if you're concerned about getting symptoms checked:
- Speak to your GP about your concerns and how to be referred for diagnosis.
- Some cancer types have self-referral schemes. Some local NHS trusts and GPs run schemes for cancers including prostate, breast and skin cancer.
- If you have PMI, you may be able to self-refer yourself to be seen quicker by a specialist.
How we can help:
- Talking through your concerns and symptoms and identify where the best place is to be seen
- Talking through family history and medical history to identify any risk factors
- Providing information on how to talk about your symptoms at your GP appointment and what to expect
- Chasing up appointments