Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has issued a renewed battle cry against cancer, pledging to put England up with the best in Europe in fighting the disease.

In England, 157,000 people die every year from cancer, and while there has been "fantastic progress" the time has come to "redouble our efforts", he said.

Therefore, the government is launching "a major programme of work" to improve outcomes for patients with the disease, focused on earlier diagnosis, changing 'unhealthy' behaviours, and better treatment.

"I want to make sure that our survival is among the best and NHS patients receive the best treatment available,” he noted, and stressed the need to reduce variation across the country so all areas can reach standards of the best.

His comments come with the launch of the second annual report Improving outcomes: a strategy for cancer, which shows that ground is being gained in cancer survival.

The chances of surviving cancer are now 48% higher today than they were in 1970, he said.

A key aspect of continued progress in the fight against the disease is earlier detection and better screening programmes, and Hunt said the government will be piloting new techniques to help improve diagnosis.

Flexible sigmoidoscopy pilot

As such, from March next year, pilot sites at Norwich, South of Tyne, St Mark’s, London, Surrey, West Kent and Wolverhampton will begin flexible sigmoidoscopy (FS) bowel screening in men and women aged 55.

FS is a one-off test that aims to detect bowel polyps and cancers early before any symptoms develop, and will be available to patients between the ages of 55 and 60, after which they will be offered the traditional faecal occult blood test.

According to the government, the FS test as the potential to save 3,000 lives a year, and up to 20 further sites are preparing to implement this new screening in a wider roll-out from October next year.