People in Cheshire and Merseyside more likely than ever before to have cancer detected in its earliest stages

A slide of cancer cells
A slide of cancer cells

People in Cheshire and Merseyside are now more likely than ever before to have their cancer detected in its earliest stages when there is a better chance of successful treatment, thanks to NHS initiatives raising awareness and diagnosis of the disease.

Cheshire and Merseyside has seen the second biggest improvement nationally in rates of early detection of cancer over the last five years, according to the latest NHS figures.

The proportion of cancers detected at stages one and two – before the disease has spread to other areas – rose by 6.8 percentage points from 52.3 per cent in 2018 to 59.1 per cent in 2023 in Cheshire and Merseyside.

It is a remarkable turnaround since 2018 when Cheshire and Merseyside was ranked 20th out of the 21 cancer alliances in England for early detection rates.

Cheshire and Merseyside is now eighth best for detecting cancer early, thanks to a vast amount of work by the NHS and partner organisations to raise awareness of cancer, encourage people to seek help if they have any persistent worrying symptoms or changes that are unusual for them, and to expand capacity for diagnostic tests.

This includes:

  • Cheshire and Merseyside has one of the most advanced programmes of community diagnostic centres nationally, offering faster access to vital health tests and scans including for suspected cancer. There are now six community diagnostic centres – in St Helens, Wirral, Northwich, Liverpool Women’s, Ellesmere Port and Southport – with a seventh opening shortly in Paddington Village, Liverpool and two on the way in Runcorn. Together, the new community diagnostic centres will deliver an additional 380,000 diagnostic tests this year for the NHS in Cheshire and Merseyside.
  • Early and extensive rollout of national NHS initiatives aimed at detecting and treating cancer early compared with other areas of the country including:
  • Targeted Lung Health Checks – lung cancer risk screening for smokers and ex-smokers aged 55 and over in areas with high rates. These checks have now been rolled out to five areas of Cheshire and Merseyside and are making a real impact on early detection of lung cancer. There are now plans for this programme to be rolled out nationally.
  • Cheshire and Merseyside has been one of the pilot areas for the national NHS-Galleri trial offering a blood test that could detect up to 50 cancers in their very earliest stages before any symptoms develop. More than 22,000 members of the public from across the Cheshire and Merseyside have joined the trial.
  • Cheshire and Merseyside Cancer Alliance roadshows and targeted campaigns to raise awareness of cancer, especially in underserved communities and those with lower take-up of cancer screening. Examples include events, information and work with community groups to encourage Black men over 40 in central Liverpool to get their prostate checked. Black men are twice as likely as white men to develop prostate cancer.
  • Strong coordination and oversight of cancer diagnosis and care through Cheshire and Merseyside Cancer Alliance, NHS Cheshire and Merseyside and the region’s Diagnostics programme. Every part of the health system works closely together to plan, deliver and improve cancer diagnostics and treatment. It means the NHS can make the best use of capacity in hospitals across the region, reducing bottlenecks and streamlining services so patients can be seen, tested and treated more

Liz Bishop, Chief Executive of The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust – the region’s specialist cancer hospital – and senior responsible officer for Cheshire and Merseyside Cancer Alliance and Cheshire and Merseyside’s Diagnostics programme said:


“Early detection is absolutely key to saving lives and giving people the best possible chance of a good recovery from cancer. That’s important because, although the specialist treatments we provide at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre are very advanced and can be extremely effective, once cancer spreads there can be much less likelihood of a complete cure.

“This significant improvement in early detection rates is really encouraging and, through our role as the region’s specialist cancer provider and host organisation for the cancer alliance and diagnostics programme, we are so committed to making sure we continue to see growth in the percentage of people diagnosed when their cancer is still at stages one and two.”

Rowan Pritchard Jones, Medical Director of NHS Cheshire and Merseyside said:


“It is fantastic to see such progress in the early detection of cancer in Cheshire and Merseyside – with partners from our Integrated Care System supporting a remarkable turnaround in achieving the second biggest improvement nationally.

“This improvement is testament to the huge amount of work carried out by the NHS and partner organisations, which means that people in Cheshire and Merseyside are now more likely than ever before to have their cancer detected in its earliest stages.

“We are committed to moving from largely reactive medicine to proactive interventions, and early detection of cancer is part of that journey.

“It is vital that we continue to do all we can to raise awareness of cancer, and encourage people to come forward if they have any persistent worrying symptoms or changes that are unusual for them.”