A £750 million cancer strategy for Britain designed to improve survival rates could mean saving an extra 5,000 lives a year, ministers said Wednesday.
New screening programmes will be introduced under the Department of Health (DoH) plans, which will see £450 million invested in increasing early diagnosis.
The money will be used to fund access to diagnostic tests from local GPs with over two million extra tests to be made available via primary care services over the next four years.
The strategy also promises to increase access to radiotherapy treatment as well as focusing on prevention and healthy lifestyles.
?Our ambition is simple, to deliver survival rates among the best in Europe and this strategy outlines how we will make our first steps towards this," said Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, unveiling the plans.
"Our commitment is to save 5,000 extra lives a year from 2014/15 and that is what we will be measuring our success against.?
Around 298,000 new cases of cancer are diagnosed each year in the UK, according to the NHS. Cancer claims more than 150,000 lives a year in Britain, with one in four deaths caused by the disease.
Professor Mike Richards, the national clinical director for cancer, said survival rates in the UK "lag behind" other countries because too many people are diagnosed late.
"This is why our strategy focuses on earlier diagnosis which we will achieve through raising the public?s awareness of the signs and symptoms of cancer and also providing better access to diagnostic tests," he said.
"But improving outcomes for people with cancer isn't just about improving survival rates. It is also about improving patients' experience of care and the quality of life for cancer survivors and our strategy also sets out how that will be tackled."
Ciarán Devane, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, welcomed the strategy?s "commitment to improving early diagnosis and aftercare services".
"The combination of a cancer survivor survey, care plans for all cancer patients and investment in after care services should lead to cancer patients feeling less abandoned after treatment," she said.
But she said the strategy failed to outline how GPs will be supported in commissioning cancer services under NHS reforms.
"The commissioning support currently available through Cancer Networks has only had its funding secured for one more year," she added. "There is no indication of what support will be available after this point. "