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Delay warning over cancer treatment
Delays in treating some types of cancer could put patients' lives at risk, a charity has warned.
Macmillan said hospital waiting times for lung, bowel and prostate cancer patients in England were "extremely disappointing".
The statistics, released by the Department of Health, showed the proportion of patients who received "definitive treatment" within two months of being urgently referred by their GP.
The target for this criterion is 85%, and although it was met by the overall figures (87.9%), it was missed for certain categories of cancer. This included lower gastrointestinal cancers (79.9%), which includes bowel, lung cancers (80.4%) and urological cancers (84.2%), including prostate.
Mike Hobday, director of policy and research of Macmillan Cancer Support, said: "It is extremely disappointing that despite meeting the overall waiting times targets, hospitals are consistently missing this standard for treatment in cancer categories that include lung, bowel and prostate cancers.
"Getting into treatment as early as possible gives cancer patients the best possible chance of survival. Missing the targets for these types of cancer mean these patients' chances are potentially being put at risk.
"The statistics are particularly worrying for lung cancer patients as the disease has such low survival rates. We are calling for hospital cancer specialists to work closely with Macmillan to help make changes to improve in this area."
The figures covered the period from October to December last year.
A Department of Health spokesman said: "Cancer waiting times continue to remain broadly stable, with the vast majority of patients - 95.8% - being seen by a specialist within two weeks of referral from their GP.
"We want our cancer services to be the best in the world which is why every cancer patient should get quick and easy access to a specialist. Local NHS organisations should work hard to make sure this happens."