Around 20,000 deaths related to cancer in the UK every year could be avoided with a new approach, a charity has said.
Cancer Research UK has published a report calling for more action to speed up diagnosis, get people treated quickly and recruit 16,000 more full-time cancer staff by 2029.
The NHS has already set a target to diagnose 75% of cancers at the earliest stages of one or two by 2028 but experts have said this target will be missed.
Now the charity is calling for bolder action and the creation of a national cancer council accountable to the Prime Minister.
Discussing the issue, Cancer Research UK said: “Across the UK, cancer waiting times are being consistently missed, and some have not been met for over a decade.
“While they wait for diagnosis and treatment, patients and their families face an anxious and worrying time.
“Investment in prevention, NHS staff, equipment and facilities is needed to turn the tide.”
UK 'lagging behind' comparable countries for cancer survival
Cancer survival has doubled over the last 50 years but the UK still lags behind many other comparable countries when it comes to how long people live.
The report said cancer is a “fixable problem”, pointing out that 30 years ago England and Denmark were improving cancer outcomes at broadly the same rate but Denmark has now “raced ahead, with consistent funding and long-term cancer strategies”.
Professor Sir Mike Richards, former national cancer director at the Department of Health, who now advises NHS England, told a briefing there is much work to do to improve diagnosis, treatment and survival.
He said: “Why do we have poor survival?
“Well, it is a combination, of course, of diagnosing people at a later stage of the disease and then inconsistencies in treatment.
“The late stage problem is a big one. Nearly half of all patients with cancer are diagnosed at stage three and four. They have poor prognosis compared to those in stage one and two."
In its report, Cancer Research UK said funding is needed to plug the £1 billion gap in cancer research over the next decade.
It said the proportion of cancer research funded by the Government (versus charity) is the lowest of any major condition, “while having amongst the highest cost of disease burden”.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Cancer is being diagnosed at an earlier stage, more often, with survival rates improving across almost all types of cancer and the NHS seeing and treating record numbers of cancer patients over the last two years.
“Our Major Conditions Strategy will set out how we will improve cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment and we have opened 135 community diagnostic centres offering over five million additional tests, including for cancer."