Three hundred more patients might survive cancer each year in Wales if services performed to the European average, a leading specialist has said.
That could be an estimated 600 lives saved if Wales ranked with the best.
Tom Crosby, medical director of the Wales Cancer Network, said there needed to be “a relentless drive to diagnose cancers earlier”.
He wants the way services are delivered to be transformed or he fears they could “break” and “fall over”.
Dr Crosby, consultant oncologist at Velindre Cancer Centre, Cardiff, said cancer services in Wales were already struggling to cope.
And with the number of people with the disease predicted to double by 2035 it could become more and more difficult to close the performance gap.
Although most patients in Wales have a good experience of cancer care – Dr Crosby said frontline staff go “the extra mile” – he believes step-by-step change will no longer be enough.
He wants lessons learned from countries like Denmark, where cancer experts from Wales have already undertaken a fact-finding visit.
“It shows what the prize is if we get this right and perform as other services do,” said Dr Crosby.
“As a country, as health organisations, we have to accept that our outcomes are not as good as they need to be. We must all find that unacceptable and strive to improve those outcomes.”