More needs to be done to close the survival gap for cancer
With one out of every 2 people born after 1960 developing cancer in their lifetime, and the fact that cancer diagnosis has doubled over the last 40 years, the treatment and research of the disease is one of the NHS’s biggest challenges.
NHS England has said that cancer survival rates have never been higher. However, a recent study published in the British Journal of Cancer, and cited by the BBC, has found that survival rates remain poorer than other countries with comparable health systems. The study, carried out by Cancer Research, showed the findings of researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who compared England’s survival rates for colon, lung, ovarian, rectal and stomach cancers with data from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Sweden between 1995 and 2009.
Although there was steady improvement noted across all countries and cancer types, England’s five-year survival rate for all six cancers remained lower than Australia, Canada, Norway and Sweden. It is thought that the main factors to blame are late diagnosis, poorer access to treatment and less investment.
The study did also produce some good news, however. Five-year survival for breast cancer improved more in England, Australia, Canada, Norway and Sweden and important gains in survival from lung cancer in England were also noted.
Cancer Research UK says improvements in cancer awareness, patient services and treatment are helping, but it’s clear more needs to be done if the NHS is to meet is targets in this area. Speed of diagnosis is, Cancer Research argues, a very significant factor, with so much variation in diagnosis times across the UK. And if services across the country don’t start to work better together, then how can we expect any improvement? It’s a question that Sean Duffy, cancer chief of NHS London is keen to tackle with the implementation of the recent ‘Cancer Taskforce Strategy’, but the bigger question is, will it work?
The Cancer Taskforce Strategy lays out a five-year action plan for cancer services that the NHS hopes will improve survival rates and save thousands of lives. It will consider prevention, first contact with services, diagnosis, treatment, support for those living with and beyond cancer, and end-of-life care, as well as how all these services will need to develop and innovate in future.
This is all positive stuff, but the fact is that the NHS is already struggling to meet the 62-day deadline from cancer diagnosis to treatment that it set for itself.
(Graph taken from www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-33570485 )
Waiting times are currently a big problem for the NHS across the board, but in the long run, focus on early cancer diagnosis and treatment could well save the NHS money whilst at the same time saving lives.
By Senior Associate, Jonathan Zimmern.
Jonathan has been dealing with complex and high value cases for over 7 years, acting for those injured through medical negligence or personal injury accidents.
Jonathan’s cases cover many areas, including: