Cancer survival in England is ‘lagging behind’ in the west

According to a study published in the British Journal of Cancer, England has one of the lowest cancer survival rates in the west.

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine looked at survival rates for colon, breast, lung, ovarian, rectal and stomach cancers in England, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Sweden, and found that England had the lowest overall survival rate. Patients in Australia and Sweden have the greatest chance of surviving cancer.

Compared with Australia and Canada, five-year survival is between five and twelve per cent lower in England across all the cancer types measured.

Although England is at the bottom of the chart, survival rates are improving, in some cases faster than other countries in the study.

Since the mid-2000s, lung cancer survival rates have rise by up to one per cent a year. Dr Sarah Walters, the study’s lead author, says that more needs to be done to improve survival rates:

‘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.’

In 2009 the Department of Health formed the International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership, a consortium of epidemiologists, clinicians and policymakers tasked with understanding survival differences between Britain and other high-income countries with universal healthcare system coverage.

The committee found that survival in the UK is consistently lower than elsewhere, with no evidence that we are catching up with other countries, apart from on breast cancer.