The Scottish Government’s Detect Cancer Early (DCE) campaign set a target to improve detection rates for breast, lung and colorectal cancers by 25 per cent by the end of 2015.
Figures published on Tuesday showed three years after the deadline the target has yet to be hit. NHS Scotland Information Services Division statistics found detection of the three cancers at stage one had risen by 8.4 per cent since 2010 and 2011, some way short of the 25 per cent target.
Overall 25.3 per cent of cases of the three most common cancers - breast, lung and colorectal - were diagnosed at stage one in 2016 and 2017.
The figures also revealed differences in rate of diagnosis between patients with the cancers in Scotland’s most and least deprived areas.
For people with breast, colorectal or lung cancer in the most-deprived areas, 22.6 per cent were diagnosed at the earliest stage, an 11.8 per cent increase from the baseline.
However, the highest proportion of patients from the most-deprived areas were diagnosed at the most advanced stage of the disease, with 30.3 per cent diagnosed at stage four.
Labour health spokesman Anas Sarwar said: “While the moderate improvement in the number of early cancer detections is of course welcome, these figures show once again that the SNP is failing to deliver on its pledges for patients. The persistent inequality in detection is also particularly concerning, especially as cancer survival rates are intrinsically linked to early diagnosis and treatment. It is unacceptable that high proportions of people from the most deprived areas are still more likely to be diagnosed in the later stages.”
Health secretary Jeane Freeman said: “It is encouraging that today’s figures show that more than 25 per cent of all breast, lung and bowel cancers in Scotland are detected at the earliest stage - this equates to more than 6,100 people and is an 8.4 per cent increase from when recording began in 2010-2011. However, more needs to be done to increase this further and we are taking action to tackle the variation in early detection rates between our most and least deprived areas.”