Half of health boards failed to meet a key cancer waiting-times target, though across Scotland the number of patients being seen has risen.
In the last three months of 2014, 94.2% of those patients who were urgently referred when doctors suspected cancer began their treatment within 62 days, official figures showed.
That is below the Scottish Government target of having 95% of patients start treatment within two months, but it is better than the previous quarter, when the total was 93.5%.
Seven of the country’s NHS boards met the 62-day standard but seven did not, with NHS Fife NHS Grampian, NHS Highland, NHS Orkney, NHS Shetland, NHS Ayrshire and Arran, and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde all failing to achieve the target.
In the NHS Orkney area 50% of those who were urgently referred began treatment within the target time while in NHS Western Isles 100% of patients began receiving medical help within two months.
Janice Preston, head of Macmillan Cancer Support in Scotland, said: “It’s very disappointing to see waiting-times targets being missed again.
“While it’s encouraging there has been some improvement, half of the health boards are still missing the target.
“Delays can leave patients and families very anxious and distressed, and it’s vital every effort is made to ensure these targets are not missed again.”
Health Secretary Shona Robison welcomed the steady rise in the number of patients starting cancer treatment more quickly, but said more needed to be done to ensure no-one was waiting unnecessarily.
Ms Robison said: “For any patient who receives a diagnosis of cancer it can be an extremely difficult time and getting fast access to specialist treatment is vitally important.
“I welcome the figures published today which show a third successive increase in the number of patients seen within the target period.
“Between October and December last year, the median wait for patients between the date of decision to treat and the first cancer treatment was under a week, and this is testament to the commitment of NHS staff across Scotland.”
She continued: “The quality of cancer care is something that, as a country, we value deeply and it is why the Scottish Government has been working to ensure people get access to treatment as quickly as possible, within the stringent targets we set ourselves.
“Last year we put in place a support team to closely monitor health boards’ performance and act where problems were identified.
“This team has visited health boards and supported them to make the changes needed to reduce waiting times as well as facilitating the sharing of best practice across the country.
“This decisive action, coupled with a £2.5 million investment in June to build diagnostic and treatment capacity, is now starting to show real improvements in waiting times.
“However there is clearly still more work to be done and with an increasing number of people being diagnosed with cancer putting additional pressure on services, we will continue to support boards to sustain performance and make further improvements where needed.”
All NHS boards achieved the target of having 95% of cancer patients start treatment within 31 days of a decision being made on how best to help them, the figures for October to December last year also showed.