Scotland launches new cancer strategy to improve survival rates

The Scottish government has launched a ten-year cancer strategy aiming to slash the number of people diagnosed with later stage cancer and reduce the health inequalities associated with the disease.

Currently around 42% of cancers are diagnosed at a late stage, but through continued investment in the Detect Cancer Earlier (DCE) programme the ambition is to reduce the number diagnosed at stages III and IV in year ten of the plan to 24%. That would mean around 5,000 fewer people diagnosed with later stage disease in the year 2033. 

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The strategy is underpinned by a three-year cancer action plan that contains 136 actions. Both documents focus on improving all areas of cancer services, from prevention and diagnosis through to treatment and post-treatment care, with a particular focus on currently less-survivable cancers.

Scottish Health Secretary, Michael Matheson, said: ‘Our absolute focus is to improve cancer survival and make sure everyone gets excellent and accessible care. The pandemic had a significant impact on all aspects of health and social care, and cancer services were no exception. This cancer strategy will make sure we are properly delivering these vital services and clearly directing future investments.

‘The strategy takes a strong public health approach, which means more cancers will be prevented. Those who require diagnostics and treatment will have prompt access to quality services. As well as being able to cure more people, we also recognise the importance of treatment to extend good quality life and the provision of excellent palliative care.’

Dr Sorcha Hume, Chair of the Scottish Cancer Coalition and Public Affairs Manager for Cancer Research UK in Scotland, said: ‘The Scottish Cancer Coalition works with the Scottish Government to ensure that the voice of cancer charities and patients is heard. We therefore welcome the publication of the new Cancer Strategy for Scotland 2023-2033.

‘Our NHS is under more pressure than ever, and it is our sincere hope that this strategy is the first step towards better cancer services for the people of Scotland. It is vital however that implementation is swift, and that the strategy is adequately funded.’

Lorraine Dallas, Chair of the Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce Scotland and Director at the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, said: ‘The new Cancer Strategy for Scotland is a big step in the right direction for people diagnosed with one of the less survivable cancers.

‘Those include cancers of the pancreas, lung, stomach, liver, brain and oesophagus (the less survivable cancers) which have an average five-year survival of just 16% from diagnosis. Lung cancer remains Scotland’s single biggest cause of cancer death and a continued focus and action to address this should be an urgent priority.

‘We’re encouraged to see a clear commitment to taking action on those cancer types that have the poorest survival. We now need significant investment in research and action to improve cancer diagnostic and treatment services.

‘Early diagnosis is crucial when it comes to cancer survival. We know that less survivable cancers are far more likely to be diagnosed in the later stages of the disease and this has a significant impact on treatment options.’


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