Why prevention is better than cure


To mark World Health Day, Echelon Health, a leading provider of personal health assessments, places a spotlight on the power of preventative care

In the UK, survival rates for cancer can be up to 20 times higher when the disease is diagnosed early.

The major causes of mortality and morbidity in England are preventable diseases influenced by behavioural factors such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and poor diet. Today, although overall life expectancy has increased dramatically compared to previous decades, the number of years spent in ill health is also rising. 

This has a knock-on effect, as we become more reliant on health services as we age. As Covid-19 continues to put greater strains on demand, there is an increasing need to take a more proactive stance towards our health – to not only enjoy living longer and better, but also to safeguard the future of our NHS.

This is particularly significant given that preventable ill health accounts for a high proportion of GP appointments. It is estimated that 40% of the uptake of health services in England may be preventable through action on the determinants of avoidable chronic conditions, such as preventable cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

No guarantees
Developing healthier habits is a great start in generally bettering the health of the nation. Unfortunately, most cancers and disease are completely symptomless until they have reached an advanced stage. Sadly, there is no guarantee that preventative actions alone will exempt you from chronic disease.

But treating these illnesses early remains paramount, and technology has a significant role to play in this area. When done correctly, holistic health assessments can highlight these concerns in their early stages, giving as much opportunity for positive action.

This is particularly significant given the survival rate for the most common cancers is dramatically higher when the disease is diagnosed early, according to Cancer Research UK. Earlier stage treatment also costs considerably less. 

Lung cancer, for instance, still has the worst survival rate of all the major cancers, with just 5% of people surviving for 10 years or more. However, detection and treatment at an early stage, when the tumour is just a few millimetres in size, increases the chance of 10-plus year survival to over 95%.

CT scanning is the most sensitive means of detecting lung cancers – an experienced specialist chest radiologist will be able to detect cancers as small as 1-2mm. This is a far more sensitive scan than using x-rays, which can generally only detect tumours of 10mm in size. MRI scanning cannot image the chest at all.

Additionally, there is growing concern among health professionals about the increasing incidence of lung cancer in people who have never smoked, with over 350,000 cases occurring each year worldwide in this group. This signals the importance of screening and regular health checks.

The rules haven’t changed
It is widely recognised that cancer screening plays a critical role in early detection but unfortunately it is no secret that it is one of the areas that have suffered the most during the pandemic.

But the rules haven’t changed. The more people know about the health of their body from the inside out, the more we can save lives and drastically reduce the pressure the NHS faces every day.

CVD is one of the leading causes of death in the UK – but most cases are preventable, including by early diagnosis and intervention. A health assessment capable of detecting the earliest signs of CVD can be life-changing and when diagnosed early it means patients can be directed to the required treatment, potentially giving them a better quality of life and minimising the risk of suffering a future heart attack or stroke.

At Echelon Health, we offer some of the world’s leading health assessments. Utilising only the most advanced scanning technology, combined with the skills of our experienced radiologists and doctors, enables us to detect tumours as small as 1-2mm and subsequently, up to 94% of the causes of preventable death.

We wholeheartedly believe – prevention is always better than cure.