WOMEN in Hastings are risking their lives by delaying vital cancer tests.
New statistics released by East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust show that last month just 82 per cent of local women who were referred to the hospital by their GP for all-important screening tests turned up within the two-week time frame set by the Government.
This was despite the high risk involved in leaving potential symptoms to worsen and NHS warnings that all potential cancer patients should be seen within a fortnight.
Hospitals across the UK are expected to welcome 93 per cent of referrals within that time but the Conquest Hospital has fallen way below that threshold - leading to calls for local women not to underestimate the importance of any cancer related appointment.
David Hughes, the trust’s medical director, was keen to stress how vital these first tests could be.
He said: “It is very important to empthasise that if urgent appointments are made because there are concerns about cancer it is important people take them up.
“It is a shame if people do not take up on the appointment within two weeks because the time period is there for a reason.
“Having a test does not mean you have cancer and for a lot of people it will end up not to be a problem but for those who do have problems is important to start treatment as early as possible.”
Dr Hughes said women missed appointments for a host of reasons, including not wanting to take time off work or because of holidays.
For others, it can be the worry of facing up to a worst case scenario.
“Some people may not take up the appointment because they are worried,” continued Dr Hughes. “We would say that if you are worried and it turns out to be fine, you have saved yourself a lot of worry. And if it does not, the better we identify things the better people’s chances.
“A lot of people have busy lives but if they have been identified as an urgent case then it is worth taking some time out to follow up.”
A recent Europe-wide study showed that British women have one of the lowest survival rates for breast cancer in the region’s richest nations.
The survey suggest 77.6 per cent of British patients survive for five years, below the European average of 79.5 per cent.
Experts have since said that the poor figures are most likely a results of delays at the diagnosis stage.