Friday, 6 December 2013

Britain is no country for old men with high expectations of survival from cancer

A study published in the Lancet Oncology and drawn from data of survival for more than 10 million cancer patients from 29 countries diagnosed between 2000 and 2007 and followed up to 2008, has shown that survival rates in Britain, for nine out of ten common cancers, are lower than the European average, despite improvements in diagnosis and treatment. In addition, it revealed that :

* the discrepancy is even worse among old men and women with nearly all forms of the disease, more likely to die in Britain compared with thoses in France, Germany, Spain and Scandinavia.

* for old men with prostate cancer, just under 81% of those in Britain live beyond five years compared with 90% in Finland and 89% in France.

* only 9% of lung cancer patients in Britain live beyond five years, compared with the 13%  average, 17% in Austria and 15% in Sweden.

* the figures suggest that age discrimination for cancer treatment is worse in Britain compared to elsewhere in Europe with increasing concern that old men and women sufferers in their 70s and 80s are being written off by doctors.
Drew Lindon, Head of Policy at 'Prostate Cancer UK', said:
"There is a shadow to this story. While prostate cancer survival rates have improved compared to other cancers, beneath the surface we see worrying indications that Britain is lagging behind the European average on survival rates."

Researchers are unclear as to why survival rates are so much lower in Britain, but suggestions are that :

* the disease is often diagnosed too late when it has spread to other organs.

* doctors might be missing certain symptoms.

* patients are reluctant to make appointments as they 'don’t want to be a nuisance'.

Either way, Ciaran Devane, Chief Executive of Macmillan Cancer Support said:
"This is truly depressing. One in two of us will get cancer in our lifetime so this is a big deal and has to be a wake-up call for the NHS. There is no reason why the UK should lag behind the rest of Europe when it comes to either certain cancers or survival rates for older cancer patients."

Public Health England has responded by starting a 'Be Clear On Cancer' campaign, to raise public awareness of the early signs and symptoms of the disease. Di Riley, the Head of its 'National Cancer Intelligence Network', said that old people, in particular, need to be encouraged to go to their GP if they notice suspicious symptoms. "The recently introduced bowel cancer screening programme should also improve survival from colon cancer, and reduce the number of emergency presentations of elderly people with bowel cancer, particularly as we are now screening people to their mid-70s."

Percentage of old men surviving at least five years after diagnosis :

Bowel / Colon Cancer

German      : 62.2%
Austrian     : 61.2%
French        : 59.7%
Spanish      : 57.1%
Slovenian   : 54%
Czech         : 52.5%
British   : 51.8%

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