Kidney cancer patients waiting months longer than NHS target for diagnosis

Kidney cancer patients waiting months longer than NHS target for diagnosis
Survival rates for disease in UK are among worst in Europe

Two fifths of kidney cancer patients in the UK are waiting three times longer for a diagnosis than the target set by NHS England, new figures show.

These patients are being diagnosed 84 days after first seeking medical advice – despite the NHS England Faster Diagnosis Standard (FDS) advising that the waiting time should be no more than four weeks.

The findings come from a survey carried out by Kidney Cancer UK, which said more needed to be done to “increase the speed in which we identify the condition”.

The proportion of survey respondents who are waiting over 84 days for diagnosis has remained the same for the past two years, suggesting that the FDS has had no impact on patients’ referral to diagnosis time, the charity said.

Although over a quarter of survey respondents (25.29 per cent) reported having no symptoms, the majority (75 per cent) reported at least one when seeking medical help – with blood in the urine or pain in the back, flank or side being the most common.

But even with such a high percentage of patients experiencing these symptoms, results from the survey indicated that that almost half (48 per cent) of kidney cancer cases were discovered as incidental findings after a patient was being investigated for an unrelated condition.

“Sadly, five-year survival rates for kidney cancer in the UK are among the worst in Europe, with mortality rates increasing by 73 per cent since the 1970s,” said Dr Natalie Charnley, an oncologist at Royal Preston Hospital and Kidney Cancer UK ambassador.

“Kidney cancer is survivable – however unlike many other cancers, a simple laboratory test capable of diagnosing kidney cancer has yet to be developed, and our diagnosis and treatment standards are insufficient at identifying the disease in its early stages.

“It is therefore vital for both the public and our hard-working medical professionals to become better informed on the signs and symptoms associated with kidney cancer.”

The Kidney Cancer UK research surveyed 432 patients, running from 25 September to 7 November 2021.

Between 2015 and 2017, there were around 13,056 new cases of kidney cancer in the UK. There were 4,619 deaths between 2014 and 2016, Kidney Cancer UK said.