10 March 2022

Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Now, said:

“It’s alarming that in January, for the first time, less than half of women (47.5%) in England who were urgently referred with potential breast cancer symptoms, were seen by a specialist within two weeks.

“Ongoing poor performance on the two-week wait target is now adversely impacting the number of people starting treatment for breast cancer within 62 days (61.7%).

“As the government launches its plan to replace the two-week wait with a target for people to receive a diagnosis or have breast cancer ruled out within 28 days of referral, it’s abundantly clear that regardless of the target, and despite the valiant efforts of NHS staff, breast cancer services are critically overstretched and understaffed. 

“The upcoming 10-year Cancer Strategy presents a crucial opportunity for the government to set out a fully-funded plan to get breast cancer performance back on track and build and support the diagnostic and imaging workforce needed to realise its ambitions on rapid diagnosis.

“However ahead of this, the government must consider what immediate steps it can take to reverse this rapid decline. Agonising delays must be replaced with prompt diagnoses for all women – and the sooner breast cancer is diagnosed the greater the chance of treatment being successful.

“Today’s data is published in the context of there still being 8,930* women living with undiagnosed breast cancer in England – a result of disruptions caused by the pandemic, but also a reflection of the government’s failure to deliver on its commitments to recover cancer services.

“Anyone seeking information and support can speak to our expert nurses by calling our free Helpline on 0808 800 6000.”

ENDS

Notes to Editor

* The number of people starting their first treatment for breast cancer under the 31 day wait from decision to treat between March 2020 and January 2022 (compared to data from the same months in 2019/20) in England. Calculated using Monthly Provider Based Data and Summaries, Cancer Waiting Times, NHS England.