Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland trails rest of UK in cancer survival rates, study reveals

One-year survival rates for stomach, rectal, pancreatic, lung and ovarian cancers are all below the national average, new figures show
One-year survival rates for stomach, rectal, pancreatic, lung and ovarian cancers are all below the national average, new figures show

By Christopher Leebody

Northern Ireland is lagging behind the rest of the UK in survival rates for some cancers.

One-year survival rates for stomach, rectal, pancreatic, lung and ovarian cancers are all below the national average, new figures show.

Cancer Research UK managed the analysis, published today in the journal Lancet Oncology.

It revealed the UK sits at the bottom of a major league table for cancer survival in high-income countries.

While survival rates are improving for patients across the UK, it still performs worst for key cancers including bowel, lung and pancreatic.

The study looked at almost four million cancer cases between 1995 and 2014.

It found the one-year survival rate in Northern Ireland is lower compared to the rest of the UK.

For example, for stomach cancer the Northern Ireland one-year survival rate is 45% compared to the UK rate of 47.4%. For rectal cancer it is 84.9% in the UK and 84.6% here.

One-year survival rates for pancreatic, lung and ovarian cancer are also lower here than the UK average.

This is the first international study to look at changes in cancer survival alongside incidence and mortality for cancers of the oesophagus, stomach, colon, rectum, pancreas, lung and ovary.

While acknowledging progress has been made, Margaret Carr, Cancer Research UK's public affairs manager in Northern Ireland, said that "we can certainly do better".

"More people than ever before are surviving cancer thanks to research and targeted improvements in care. But, while we're on the right track, the numbers show we can certainly do better," she said.

"We will not see the necessary improvements in diagnosis and access to treatment unless we have enough of the right staff across our health service in Northern Ireland.

"Staff shortages must be addressed because, quite simply, it will give people a better chance of surviving their cancer."

Northern Ireland is the only region of the UK without a dedicated cancer strategy, with waiting times for treatment and testing in the region among the highest in the UK.

The study looked at 3.9m cancer cases between 1995 and 2014 in seven comparable high-income countries with universal healthcare - Australia, Canada, Denmark, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway and the UK.

The data covered seven cancers - of the oesophagus, stomach, colon (bowel), rectum, pancreas, lung and ovary.

It showed that cancer survival one year after diagnosis and at the five-year mark has improved across all seven types of cancer in the UK over the last 20 years.

However, the UK has still not caught up with other countries, and sits at the bottom of the league table for five out of the seven cancers.

Between 2010 and 2014, the UK had the lowest five-year survival rate for stomach cancer (20.8%), while Australia had the highest (32.8%). The UK was also bottom for bowel, rectal, pancreatic and lung cancer.

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