More than 3,000 young Scots diagnosed with cancer in a decade

Scottish Labour have called for improvements to treatment wait times, which previously fell to the worst on record.

More than 3,000 young Scots diagnosed with cancer in a decade iStock

More than 3,000 young people under the age of 25 have been diagnosed with cancer in the decade up to 2021, new figures reveal.

Scottish Labour have called for a catch-up plan on cancer treatment and branded wait times a “national disgrace” after they previously fell to the worst on record.

It comes as figures by Public Health Scotland show 1,344 children up to the age of 14 were diagnosed between 2012 and 2021.

Nearly a third (31%) of those cancers were leukaemia, while just over a quarter (26%) were cancers of the brain and central nervous system (CNS).

Additionally, 1,919 young people aged between 15 and 24 were diagnosed within the same timeframe, with the most common cancers including carcinomas (22%), lymphomas (19%), and CNS tumours (14%).

Survival rates for both age groups have remained stable, with 85% and 91% of children and young people living at least five years after diagnosis respectively.

However, the figures showed no significant changes in one or five-year survival rates in either age group between the periods of 2011-15 and 2016-22.

Some 71.7% of eligible patients started treatment within the 62-day target time in the three months to December 31 last year, according to Public Health Scotland – the worst on record.

Targets set by the Scottish Government state no patient should wait longer than 62 days from cancer referral to first treatment.

Yet, no health board met this target in October to December 2022, while the national target has not been hit since 2012.

Meanwhile, performance on the 31-day standard target, which aims to see 95% of patients wait no more than 31 days from decision to treat to first cancer treatment, also fell to 94.1%, a slight drop on 94.4% in the previous quarter.

Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie has urged health secretary Michael Matheson to get to grips with cancer waiting targets.

She said: “This Government’s failed targets on cancer wait times are a national disgrace harming every age group.

“Children and young people with cancer deserve access to the best treatment available, but they are being failed by the negligent and incompetent SNP. They should not pay the price of SNP failure.

“After four failed cancer plans in the last seven years, it is clear that we needed renewed effort to tackle cancer wait times and ensure no more lives are endangered.

“I sincerely hope that Michael Matheson will make tackling cancer wait times an urgent priority.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We fully appreciate how difficult a cancer diagnosis is for children and young people and their families.

“We are committed to making sure the necessary support for physical and mental health is available to all who need it, when they need it.

“A dedicated strategy to support young people with cancer was published in 2021 and is the first NHS Scotland strategy for this age group. It emphasises our commitment to improving services nationally and supporting a consistent approach to care and treatment across the country.

“We are also committed to work in partnership with third sector (groups) who carry out vital work in raising awareness of cancers in young people as well as providing information and support to young people, their families, and anyone affected by cancer, as well as the role they play in supporting patients and their families.

“We will shortly publish our new Cancer Strategy for Scotland (2023-2033) which aims to improve cancer survival and provide excellent, equitably accessible, care to all.”

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