Some 3,000 cancers a year diagnosed in emergency units

Overwhelming majority of cancers detected in A&E are at late stage – Irish Cancer Society


About 3,000 cancers are diagnosed each year in hospital emergency departments, according to a new study from the Irish Cancer Society.

Over three in every four cases diagnosed in emergency departments are at an advanced stage.

Head of services and advocacy at the Irish Cancer Society, Donal Buggy, said the number of patients being diagnosed with cancer in emergency departments is worrying.

Mr Buggy said 14 per cent of cancers diagnosed in Ireland between 2010 and 2015 were emergency presentations through hospitals, and the overwhelming majority of these were at a late stage.

“By the time a patient arrives in an emergency department they are probably not only presenting with acute symptoms, but wracked with worry and fearful about what happens next.

“Unfortunately, a late diagnosis often means fewer treatment options are available, and a reduced chance of survival. Urgent steps need to be taken so people get diagnosed earlier,” he said.

Disadvantaged communities

The study found cancer patients from the most disadvantaged communities are 50 per cent more likely to be diagnosed via emergency presentation, than those from the most affluent communities.

Certain cancers had an especially high proportion of emergency presentations: pancreas (34 per cent), liver (34 per cent), brain/central nervous system (34 per cent), leukaemia (27 per cent), lung (26 per cent), ovary (24 per cent), colon (22 per cent) and stomach (20 per cent).

The research for the society was conducted by the National Cancer Registry of Ireland.

Mr Buggy said the research highlighted the “stark inequalities” in cancer diagnosis. “Unfortunately, if you are older or from a deprived area, you are far more likely to be diagnosed as an emergency, and there is a strong chance that your cancer is already at a late stage,” he said.

“The National Cancer Strategy 2017-2026 aims to reduce the proportion of cancers diagnosed in emergency departments by 50 per cent by 2026. If our actions are adopted, they will go some way to achieving this target and, ultimately, save lives,” he added.