Tuesday, 24 March 2015

9. UK Cancer Survival Rates Lag behind Europe

     Cancer survival rates in the UK are still lagging more than two decades behind those achieved in many European countries, a new global study and analysis by MacMillan Cancer Support shows.  The chances of surviving lung, breast, colon and stomach cancers in the UK trail are presently at least a decade behind many comparable European and Scandinavian countries.
      While the analysis acknowledged there had been improvements in rates in the UK over the past 40 years, during which time  cancer survival has doubled, the rates were not enough to catch up with levels achieved in many European countries a decade earlier.  By comparison UK cancer survival rates were “stuck in the 1990s”.  
     Lung cancer provided the most disturbing UK example, with only 7% of patients surviving in the 1990s. The rate improved to 10% a decade later but this was still behind a 14% survival rate achieved in Austria in the 1990s. By the 2000s 18% of patients diagnosed with lung cancer in Austria survived – almost twice the rate in the UK.
     A similar pattern for breast cancer emerged from the study. In the past decade the survival rate was 81% in the UK – a level exceeded 10 years before in Sweden, France and Italy. For colon cancer six European countries (Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden) had better survival rates in the 1990s than Britain achieved 10 years later. In the 2000s 19% of British patients diagnosed with stomach cancer survived. Better survival rates were recorded a decade earlier in Austria, Germany, Italy, Norway and Sweden.
     A MacMillan spokesperson said the figures showed that much better survival rates were achievable in the UK.  C.E.O Lynda Thomas called on politicians to “make cancer a top health priority and commit to improving UK cancer survival rates and outcomes in order to match the best in Europe”. She continued:  “Because UK cancer survival rates are lagging so far behind the rest of Europe, people are dying needlessly. Frankly, this is shameful. If countries like Sweden, France, Finland and Austria can achieve these rates, then the UK can and should, bridge the gap.”

Source: Matthew Weaver, Guardian, 24 March 2015.

    As I pointed out in my 21 January blog, 'Self Help in Cancer Diagnosis and Prevention', we can and should help ourselves in cancer diagnosis and treatment by being better informed about symptoms, (pick up leaflets from your local pharmacist or check online), being less afraid of cancer, and more willing to get ourselves tested. 
     We can also do much to prevent the onset of a number of cancers by adopting a healthier lifestyle and diet.  "The links between cancer and smoking, heavy drinking, obesity, poor diet and lack of exercise are now clinically well established",  Dr. Ian Hampson, of the Institute of Cancer Sciences has pointed out. 
     We ignore those links at our peril.

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