Almost half of lung cancer cases and a quarter of breast cancer cases in Tayside are diagnosed in the most advanced stage of the disease.
New figures have revealed that in 2014 and 2015, 23% of the three most common cancers — breast, lung and colorectal — within NHS Tayside were diagnosed at Stage 4.
For lung cancer alone, this figure was as high as 42%.
But Tayside was among the top performing boards in Scotland and there has been improvement nationally.
Dr Julie Cavanagh, consultant in public health medicine with NHS Tayside, said: “By detecting cancer at its earliest stages through screening, people have the best opportunity for successful treatment. In comparison with many other countries worldwide, patients in Scotland have a lower rate of survival from cancer, so it’s very important that people are vigilant about any changes in their health and take the opportunities that the NHS provides to detect cancer as early as possible.
“NHS Tayside staff work with communities to ensure that everyone can access screening programmes.
“This is especially important in Dundee, where the response to screening invitations is lower than the Scottish average.
“For now, we don’t have an effective screening test for lung cancer. Quite often, people don’t seek medical help with early stage lung cancer because they have few or no symptoms. But the earlier it’s found, the easier it is to treat, and the more likely you are to survive. You’re also five times more likely to survive breast cancer if it’s diagnosed and treated at the earliest stage.
“The most effective way of detecting bowel cancer early is to have regular bowel screening. The NHS will automatically invite you to take a screening test when you turn 50, and then to repeat the test every two years until you are past 74.”
Gregor McNie, Cancer Research UK’s senior public affairs manager in Scotland, said: “The new figures show that Detect Cancer Early has led to a small increase in the number of people being diagnosed early.
“But much more needs to be done and we’re pleased the Scottish Government’s new £100m cancer strategy continues efforts so as many people as possible are diagnosed early in the years to come.”