More than a third of Wales cancer patients only diagnosed when rushed to hospital

  • Video report by ITV Wales Health Correspondent Rob Osborne

More than a third of cancer patients in Wales are being diagnosed when rushed to hospital, research has revealed.

Cancer Research UK said 37.4% of cancers are being diagnosed through emergency routes - more diagnoses by A&E doctors in Wales than in some comparable high-income countries.

It has sparked renewed calls for the Welsh Government to design a new cancer plan.

Extra funding has been invested in additional cancer appointments, training and the latest diagnostic and radiotherapy treatment equipment, the Welsh Government has said.

But for mother-of-two Lucy Molloy, from Newport, it comes too late. She lost her father, Alan, to cancer in 2020.

Alan Molloy was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer.

The 35-year-old described how her father had spoken to a GP five times with severe back pain and weak legs, but he was not referred for further tests.

"We ended up taking him to A&E in the October because you could tell from looking at him there was something wrong - the pain in his eyes, his eyes changed," Lucy said.

"You could see there was something more serious than just a pulled muscle in his back."

Lucy said her father was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer within 24 hours of being admitted to A&E, and he remained in hospital for around two weeks. He died aged 74.

Several months later, the family were hit with more devastating news. Lucy was diagnosed with grade 3 breast cancer.

"I found a lump in August last year and rang the GP and was referred straight to the breast clinic at the Royal Gwent.

"So my situation was very different, I was referred straight away and I've been dealt with really well, so diagnosed pretty quickly from my original appointment."

Lucy described her father as "an absolutely amazing dad".

Lucy was told the cancer hadn't spread and has since had six rounds of chemotherapy and underwent surgery for a single mastectomy in February.

She is now waiting for an update on her treatment plan and it is likely she will start radiotherapy treatment soon.

Remember her father, she said: "He was an absolutely amazing dad to me and my two brothers.

"He worked as a journalist at South Wales Argus for his whole career. He ran the London Marathon and various half marathons, got loads of medals.

"We've got so many wonderful memories obviously growing up, and luckily I had him at [my] wedding, and he shared loads of precious times with my son Jude as well."

Alan Molloy died aged 74 in 2020 - 18 months after his diagnosis.

Cancer Research UK's findings are the first to be analysed alongside comparable countries.

It said Wales, England and Scotland lagged behind Australia, Canada, and was similar to Norway - with New Zealand having the highest levels of emergency presentations.

Katie Till, Cancer Research UK's public affairs manager in Wales, said: "This study is truly worrying. It confirms that too many people in Wales are only being diagnosed with cancer once their health has deteriorated to a point when they might need to be rushed into hospital.

"We can also see that Wales is performing poorly compared to some other countries. This is concerning because countries that have higher levels of emergency presentations have lower cancer survival.

"If we want to build a world-class cancer service in Wales, we need to learn from comparable countries and ensure fewer patients are being diagnosed with cancer after an emergency referral or trip to A&E.

"An ambitious and fully funded cancer plan is needed to ensure the NHS in Wales is world-class and fit for the future. Without this, cancer survival could go backwards."