Delays cost lives. We are calling on the Government and NHS to take strong action in a new report that showcases how delays to sarcoma cancer diagnoses are costing patient lives.
Our new report, Delays Cost Lives, highlights how poor awareness of symptoms among the public and healthcare professionals, made worse by a complex diagnostic pathway, means that sarcomas often go misdiagnosed or are simply ignored and dismissed.
Jess Phillips, MP for Birmingham Yardley and Shadow Minister for Domestic Violence and Safeguarding, lost her mother, Jean, to leiomyosarcoma, after a year of being misdiagnosed. ‘There is no excuse for the unacceptable delays that so many face in diagnosing the cancer that killed my mother. Opportunities to fully investigate her symptoms were not taken despite twelve months of endless hospital appointments; she was only diagnosed after a fluke accident on holiday’.
The later sarcoma is diagnosed, the fewer options available for treatment and the higher the chance of that treatment not working. However, this situation is amplified with sarcoma, given the very limited number of treatments currently available.
Richard Davidson, Chief Executive of Sarcoma UK, says: ‘Treatment for sarcoma already lags behind other more well-known cancers and late or inaccurate diagnosis is only making matters worse. Being diagnosed with any cancer is an isolating and lonely experience, which is further amplified for sarcoma patients who must wait a painfully long time for a diagnosis. At a time where the pandemic has hugely disrupted cancer care for so many patients, we need to do better for sarcoma patients.’
Sarcoma UK has three recommendations to get patients diagnosed earlier and save lives:
- Help health professionals to get more education about sarcoma
- Help the public become better aware of sarcoma
- Speed up the referral for scans. As soon as a sarcoma is suspected patients should be referred to a sarcoma specialist centre
‘No one should ever find themselves in the position my mother and family did,’ says Jess. ’People are needlessly losing their lives to this disease and will continue to do so if change doesn’t take place. The starting point for that begins here.’
More information around Sarcoma UK’s policy and campaigning work at sarcoma.org.uk/policy