Cancer survival rates in the UK have improved markedly over recent decades but still behind those of comparable countries, a major research exercise has shown.
Survey of cancer patients in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway and the UK between 1995 and 2014. before it becomes hard to treat.
Better surgery, in particular, to rise in five-year survival rates for colon cancer in the UK from 48% to 62%. One-year survival for long, ovarian and oesophageal cancer all increased by about 15 percentage points over the 20 years. However, the UK fared worse than five countries according to five-year survival rates: rectal, pancreatic, lung and stomach.
John Butler, a co-author of the study and clinical adviser to Cancer Research UK, said: “There is no specific reason why the UK has improved – it’s a combination of many different factors. Over the last 20 years we have seen improvements in cancer planning, development of national cancer strategies and the rollout of new diagnostic and treatment services.
"For long, ovarian and oesophageal cancer in particular, survival has increased largely because the quality of surgery has radically improved, and more is taking place than before. More people are looking after specialist teams, rather than surgeons who aren't experts in that area.
"But while we are still researching what can be done to close the survival gap between countries, we know how to invest in early diagnosis and cancer care plays in big parts." Despite our changes weve made slower progress than others. "
Cancer Research UK, which he said was more NHS cancer staff were needed if the UK was to catch up.
“More people than ever before are living thanks to research and targeted improvements in care. "But while we are on the right track, the numbers show we can certainly do better," said Sara Hiom, the charity's director of early diagnosis.
"We will have to make the diagnosis and access to treatment without having to deal with the NHS staff." Cancer Research UK has been calling for staff shortages to be addressed because, quite simply, it will give people a better chance of surviving their cancer.
"If we are to achieve world-class cancer outcomes in the UK, then we need to see comparable investment in the NHS and the systems and innovations that support it." It is a new money where it matters. "
The study, published in the Lancet Oncology journal, looked at 3.9 million cancer cases across the seven countries. The researchers say the variations between countries are prompted to get medical treatment at the same time.
Australia, Norway and Canada generally had better survival rates than New Zealand, Denmark, Ireland and the UK. In the most recent years with data available, between 2010 and 2014, Australia 70.8%) and pancreatic (14.6%). In the latter two cancers, the UK had the lowest survival rates over five years, at 62.1% and 7.9%.
The UK was also last in lung cancer (14.7%), in which Canada did best (21.7%), and stomach cancer (20.8%). Ovarian cancer survival was the highest in Norway (46.2%) and lowest in Ireland (36%).
The lead author, Dr Melina Arnold of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, said: .
"Improvements in surgical techniques and new guidelines including preoperative radiotherapy as well as better diagnosis and scanning, enabling better patient outcomes."
The trajectory over the two decades shows the UK improving but failing to catch other countries However, NHS England rejected the findings, claiming things have changed. "In the five years since the study ends, cancer survival has actually hit a record high, thanks to improvements in NHS cancer services, including the introduction of revolutionary treatments like proton beam therapy and immunotherapy," said a spokesperson.
"The NHS long-term plan will build on this progress by ramping up action to spot more at the earliest possible stage."
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