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Cancer survival lagging behind other developed countries, study finds

Published 05/08/2015

The proportion of patients living for five years after diagnosis was 5% to 12% lower in England
The proportion of patients living for five years after diagnosis was 5% to 12% lower in England

Cancer survival in England is still lagging behind other developed countries despite some improvement, a study has found.

Researchers compared the lifespans of around four million bowel, breast, lung, ovarian and stomach cancer patients in England, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

Separate survival trends in England until 2012 were also analysed.

Of all six countries, cancer survival was lowest in England, while Australia and Sweden had the highest rates.

Overall, the proportion of patients living for five years after diagnosis was 5% to 12% lower in England than it was in Australia, Canada, Norway and Sweden.

But the study also showed significant improvement in England's survival record.

Five-year survival rates for breast cancer improved more in England in 2005-09 and 1995-99 than in the four leading countries, and survival rates for all cancers except ovarian improved faster in England than in Australia.

Lead author Dr Sarah Walters, from the Cancer Survival Group at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: "The way England's cancer survival has improved shows promise, but it's vital that more is done to ensure England closes this gap and that more people survive cancer for longer.

"The rapid improvements we've seen over the past 20 years have been driven by better investment, setting and measuring targets within the NHS, and developing new ways to diagnose and treat cancer. If we are to improve further it is vital we continue to work on these areas."

The findings are published in the British Journal of Cancer, owned by Cancer Research UK.

The charity's UK director of early diagnosis Sara Hiom said: " Not only is England struggling to excel on an international level, there's also too much variation across the country in the speed with which patients are diagnosed and whether they can get the treatments they need.

"The good news is that it seems previous improvements - in cancer awareness, services and treatments - mean we're now seeing some improvements in survival. But we must do more of what we're learning works. This means providing world-class funding for our cancer services and these services working together more effectively, if we want to achieve world class cancer survival."

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