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UK 'behind' in cancer survival

21st August 2007

Studies have shown cancer survival rates in the UK fall below the European average.

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Death rates for cases of lung, breast, prostate and colorectal cancer were higher in the UK in comparison with almost all other parts of Europe.

The studies, published in the Lancet Oncology Journal by Eurocare, examined 2.7m cancer cases in 23 countries from 1995 and 1999. The projects represent the biggest international studies to date which have examined death rates for cancer patients.

The countries with the highest survival outcomes were Sweden, Norway and central European countries. Only Eastern European countries performed lower than the UK for survival rates. Overall death rates from cancer fell across Europe and the UK.

Sweden came top for survival rates. 60% of male cancer patients were alive five years after diagnosis, and 62% of women.

Male patients had rates of between 40% and 50% in the UK. Female patients in England and Northern Ireland had average rates of 56%, while Scotland was one of the lowest countries, with 48%.

A Lancet Oncology editorial commented: "Eurocare is an important indicator of oncology provision in Europe, giving insight into healthcare effectiveness and the improvements needed."

"Our concerns illustrate the considerable challenges that now face the UK government if it is to make the NHS work efficiently and effectively."

The government brought in the NHS Cancer Plan in 2000. It was intended to improve waiting times for scans and appointments, and to introduce more specialist staff to treat cancer.

Professor Richard Sullivan, Cancer Research UK's director of clinical programmes, said the effects of the plan were starting to be felt, but that improvements still needed to be made to ensure earlier diagnosis and better access to surgery and care.

 


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