Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has unveiled plans for new cancer screening programmes to help the UK reach the lowest cancer mortality rates in Europe.
Pilot programmes to screen over-55s for bowel cancer will be launched in five areas in England.
The scheme will enable doctors to detect and remove polyps before they turn cancerous and catch cancer earlier - when it is more treatable.
The Government is also piloting a new, more sensitive test for cervical cancer which could mean women would need screening half as often, while identifying abnormal cells at an earlier, more treatable stage.
Ministers said the programmes will save up to 3,000 lives a year.
Mr Hunt, who addressed the Britain Against Cancer conference in central London, said: "All the cancer specialists say that one thing they need more than anything else is to get to see people more quickly, at an earlier stage of their cancer. So there's work that needs to happen with the GP community, the pilots for bowel cancer and cervical cancer that I've announced today are positive steps. But overall improving early diagnosis is absolutely critical."
Mr Hunt said he was surprised to find that "all the top people in the NHS" were behind him in his goal of having the lowest cancer mortality rate in Europe.
Mr Hunt said: "(They all said) absolutely, we should never have been aiming to be as good as the European average in the first place and we are perfectly capable of being the best in Europe and let's embrace that as a goal. I appreciate these are only words and it's all about delivery and the commitment I want to give you all is that I'm not going to change my priorities and I'm going to stick with them for as long as I'm Health Secretary."
For some cancer types, survival rates are 10% to 15% lower in England than in comparable countries such as Australia, Canada and Sweden.
The bowel cancer screening trials will be held in Norwich, South of Tyne, St Mark's London, Surrey, West Kent and Wolverhampton. The cervical cancer test will be piloted in Liverpool, Manchester, Northwick Park, Bristol, Sheffield and Norwich.