HUNDREDS of cancers are not discovered in Bolton patients until they are at the most deadly stage, according to new figures.

NHS Digital findings show that at least 317 cancer cases diagnosed by doctors in the Bolton area in 2019 had already reached an advanced stage by the time they were diagnosed.

There were 1,618 cancers diagnosed in Bolton that year and stage four diagnoses, which carry the greatest mortality risk, represented 24 per cent of those with a valid stage identified.

Cancer Research UK head of early diagnosis Dr Jodie Moffat said: "Many factors can impact late diagnoses, and Covid has affected many of these, such as how readily people come forward with symptoms, or how long people need to wait for tests.

"Worryingly, waits for a cancer diagnosis and treatment were struggling well before the pandemic hit.

"Chronic shortages in staff and equipment mean cancer waiting times have been missed for years."

In the area covered by the NHS Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group, 37 per cent of the 262 lung cancers detected in 2019 were at stage four when found, as were 28 of 46 pancreatic cancers and 24 of 49 oesophageal cases.

Patients diagnosed at the earliest stage are between five and 10 times more likely to survive at least five years compared to those diagnosed at stage four.

In response an NHS spokesperson said the health service was committed to ensuring that 75 per cent of cancers are detected at stage one by 2028, adding that 95% of those diagnosed since March 2020 began treatment within a month.