DOCTORS say it is vital that people do not ignore cancer warning signs after it was revealed that thousands of patients are turning up at A&E with advanced cases.
NHS England data from around 4,000 GP practices suggests symptoms were picked up in other ways, for example in A&E departments.
The NHS said not all cancer patients went to their GPs and the figures were not a clear measure of performance.
Dr Liam Hosie, GP and Clinical Lead for Cancer at NHS Wigan Borough Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Getting an early diagnosis is vital for people with cancer.
In Wigan, it is common for people to wait until they feel very ill before they seek medical help – often from the Accident and Emergency department at Wigan Infirmary.
“By this time, it is more difficult for them to be successfully treated. We would encourage all people to be aware of what is happening with their body and go to their doctor if their cough persists, they have unexplained swelling or lumps, they have blood in their urine, or they have other, unexplained symptoms.”
The NHS has a target that 95 per cent of patients with suspected cancer should be seen by a specialist within two weeks – a target it says is consistently met.
Sean Duffy from NHS England said: “We know that early diagnosis is the single most important factor in cancer survival, and that’s why patients who visit their GP with ‘red flag’ symptoms like very persistent coughs, blood in urine or faeces or breast lumps should always be referred for further tests on two-week pathways.
“But not all patients visit their GP and others may have cancer without developing specific symptoms. These patients will therefore have their cancer diagnosed after going to a hospital, or have it spotted while receiving treatment for another issue.”