Early Cancer diagnosis: the patient, the doctor or the government – who’s responsibility is it?
The surmounting pressures on the system and lacking funds is enough to break the infrastructure that has survived for years like the NHS as an example. The apathy from the governments to address the pleas of doctor and nurses over the years will only cause irreversible damage to the system especially by pushing the potentially treatable medical conditions into the a no-go zone whilst they wait for a medical review or investigation.
However, can we blame just the system for this?
The delays in cancer diagnosis are noted at a variety of stages; from patient recognizing the symptoms needing urgent review, recognition of red flags by their first contact in the healthcare, waiting times for investigations, reporting errors, pressures on cancer MDTs, delays in definite treatment etc .
Pushing the already understaffed medical and nursing teams in order to review more and more patients in the limited time slots will only lead to missing vital informations and missed diagnosis. Also, the mammoth job of reporting millions of radiological images is now being outsourced to other countries. The errors in reporting leading to missed diagnosis of cancer are possible in in-house as well as in the outsourced reporting structures because of the sheer pressure of the number of images needing reporting.
Cancer treatment has been the focus of the government over the last decade. Although Introduction of 62-day targets to treat cancer has increased the rate of curative treatment but it still is way below the desired outcome we wish to see in the vision of a healthy planet.
A well funded Infrastructure would alleviate the pressures that influence errors or delays in patient management. Prioritisation of healthcare by government organisations is imperative to the early diagnosis and effective management of medical conditions. The Medical fraternity also has a major responsibility on their shoulders. The system picks the best individuals and trains them with skills that are intended not just to serve the immediate purpose but also to further the knowledge and improve the system. The research and innovations in medicine thus far have answered many questions, opening up our mind to a million new puzzles for us to solve.
Is early surveillance of disease or education of the population what can help detect the diseases at its earliest stage? If this were to be possible for all types of cancers pushing the numbers awaiting treatment, would that not need an infrastructure that can withstand the pressure ?
The answer to that question isn’t simple yet we can say that the responsibility now lies in all the parties involved to steer the culture into the direction of a healthy nation because the progress of a society is not measured by the wealth accumulated or the rankings of its GDP but by the social well being of its elements.
Dr Rohith Govindraj