Why is the UK still lagging behind in cancer survival?

Study finds UK performing worse than six comparable countries


The UK’s cancer survival rates still lag behind those of similar countries, a study has found.

In what The Guardian describes as a “major research exercise”, the study in Lancet Oncology examined the one-year and five-year survival of cancer patients in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway and the UK between 1995 and 2014.

They found that the chances of surviving cancer have improved in the UK, with five-year survival rates for colon cancer up from 48% to 62% and one-year survival for lung, ovarian and oesophageal cancer up by around 15%.

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However, the UK still performed worse than Australia, Canada, Denmark, Ireland, New Zealand and Norway. Cancer Research UK told the BBC that the UK could do better and called for more “investment in the NHS and the systems and innovations that support it”.

It added: “We will not see the necessary improvements in diagnosis and access to treatment unless we have enough of the right staff across our NHS.”

The authors of the study said the different survival rates was partly explained by how swiftly patients get a diagnosis and then get prompt access to effective treatment.

John Butler, a co-author of the report, said “continued investment in early diagnosis and cancer care plays a big part” in survival rates, adding: “Despite our changes we’ve made slower progress than others.”

The Daily Mirror puts it more directly, saying “a lack of funding to boost early diagnosis is why Britain did so poorly”.

In England, the NHS target is for cancer treatment to start within 62 days of an urgent referral in 85% of cases, but 94 out of 131 (around 70%) cancer services in England failed to do that during 2018/19.

Despite this, the Department of Health and Social Care said: “Cancer survival rates are at a record high.”

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