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25 July 2017, 13:34
The number of patients given a cancer diagnosis at the earliest stage has increased slightly but remains below standard, according to new figures.
Cancer charities said the stage of diagnosis is crucial as early detection and treatment are key to improving survival rates.
About a quarter (25.5%) of patients with the three most common cancers - breast, lung and colorectal - were diagnosed at stage one in 2015 and 2016, a 9.2% increase in detection rate from 2010 and 2011 but below the required standard of a 25% increase.
The Scottish Government's Detect Cancer Early campaign set a target to improve detection rates for the three cancers by 25% by the end of 2015 but missed this target last year as the increase was 8%.
NHS Scotland Information Services Division statistics show only one health board in Scotland met the standard, NHS Fife with a 27% rise.
The figures also revealed marked differences in rate of diagnosis between patients with the cancers in Scotland's deprived and affluent communities.
Of those living in the most-deprived areas, the highest proportion (29.4%) were diagnosed at stage four, the most advanced stage of disease, while the highest proportion of patients in the least-deprived areas (28.6%) were diagnosed at stage two.
Gregor McNie, Cancer Research UK's senior public affairs manager in Scotland, said: ''Early diagnosis, followed by speedy treatment, is crucial to improving patients' chances of beating cancer.
''It's welcome news that Detect Cancer Early has led to a small increase in the number of people in Scotland being diagnosed with cancer early.
''We know that some patients are still waiting too long for a diagnosis.
''Missing cancer waiting-times targets is a clear indication that diagnostic services in Scotland aren't coping.
''These tests are vital to diagnose cancer earlier. The Scottish Government must make sure that the health service is able to meet the growing demand.''
Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: ''This is yet another cancer target that has been missed by this SNP government.
''This latest failure comes on the back of over 50 months where the SNP have failed to hit the main cancer waiting-time target.
''Detecting cancer at stage one is lifesaving and it is right for the Scottish Government to be ambitious in trying to improve detection rates.
''However, Nicola Sturgeon set this target five years ago and it has been missed by a huge margin on her watch.
''The support cancer patients are receiving is falling short against a range of measures. It simply isn't good enough.''