Around 115,000 cancer patients a year in England are diagnosed too late to give them the best chance of survival, according to Cancer Research UK.
This means that nearly half of all cancers diagnosed with a known stage in England are diagnosed at stage 3 or 4.
Of these, around 67,000 people are diagnosed at stage 4 – the most advanced stage – leaving them with fewer treatment options and less chance of surviving their disease, the charity said.
Last year, the government pledged to improve the number of people diagnosed with early stage cancer from two in four diagnosed early to three in four by 2028. Cancer Research UK has calculated that to reach this target, an extra 100,000 patients must be diagnosed early each year by 2028.
Cancer Research said there aren’t enough of the right staff available on the ground and there are no plans to significantly increase the numbers needed to transform the health service.
If bowel cancer is diagnosed at the earliest stage, more than nine in 10 people will survive, but if it is diagnosed at the latest stage, just one in 10 people will survive their disease for at least five years.
Emma Greenwood, Cancer Research UK’s director of policy, said although survival has improved, it is not happening fast enough.
“More referrals to hospital means we urgently need more staff. The government’s inaction on staff shortages is crippling the NHS, failing cancer patients and the doctors and nurses who are working tirelessly to diagnose and treat them,” she added.