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Routes to Diagnosis

The Routes to Diagnosis project links multiple health datasets to categorise the pathways that lead to a patient’s diagnosis of cancer.

About Routes to Diagnosis

The Routes to Diagnosis project links multiple health datasets to categorise the pathways that lead to a patient’s diagnosis of cancer. The 8 routes (screen detected, urgent suspected cancer referral, GP referral, other outpatient, inpatient elective, emergency presentation, death certificate only and unknown), covering all those diagnosed with cancer, can be used to monitor system changes in cancer pathways and give an indication of the success of efforts to improve timely diagnosis.

Earlier diagnosis of cancers remains key in reducing the number of patients diagnosed with late stage cancers, which improves cancer survival. The NHS Long Term Plan sets out a commitment to diagnose more cancers earlier, for example through lowering the threshold for GP referral and reviewing the cancer screening programmes.


Routes to Diagnosis publication

This publication provides annual statistical updates on the routes in which patients get diagnosed with cancer. It incorporates data which can be used to monitor system changes in cancer pathways and give an indication of the success to improve patient outcomes.

This publication provides the percentage of cancers presenting by each route to diagnosis (screen detected, urgent suspected cancer referral, GP referral, other outpatient, inpatient elective, emergency presentation, death certificate only and unknown) by age group, gender, deprivation, stage at diagnosis and cancer site. Survival estimates by deprivation, age, gender, stage at diagnosis and cancer site.

The interactive tool can be found on the Routes to Diagnosis data page.


Recent outputs

The latest results for 2020 show the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on trends in diagnosis. For all malignant cancers (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) emergency presentations increased: up to 22.5% from 19.4% in 2019. Those referred with suspected cancer symptoms on an urgent suspected cancer referral pathway plateaued at 39%. Additionally, the percentage of cancers diagnosed through screening programmes has dropped from 6.2% in 2019 to 4.5% in 2020. This is all against a background of fewer cancers being diagnosed during the pandemic.

Net survival remains higher for those diagnosed through managed Routes, especially screening, but lower for emergency presentations. For example, for those diagnosed between 2016 and 2020 with colorectal cancer, 1 year age-standardised net-survival for screen detected was 94%, urgent suspect cancer referrals was 85% and GP referrals 82% compared to emergency presentations which was 54%.

The 2020 results can be found on the Routes to Diagnosis collection page.

Last edited: 12 March 2024 4:29 pm