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Cancer survival rates not improved much in a decade

But NHS Cancer Plan may have had beneficial effects, say experts

OnMedica Staff

Friday, 20 March 2009

There has been no major improvement in cancer survival in the UK over the past decade, experts have claimed.

In an editorial in The Lancet Oncology, Karol Sikora (CancerPartnersUK) states that, despite the tripling of investment in cancer care in the UK over the past decade, there has been "no striking improvement" in cancer survival.

“We are at best keeping track with improvements elsewhere rather than closing the gap,” said the author. He further noted that the NHS cancer plan for England, which aims to have five year cancer survival rates comparable with the best in Europe by 2010, “is looking optimistic”.

In an article also published in the April issue of the Lancet Oncology, Michel Coleman from the Cancer Research UK Cancer Survival Group London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in London, UK and colleagues did suggest the NHS Cancer Plan had shown some beneficial effect on survival, although wide regional variations remain. The researchers compared survival rates between England and Wales (as Wales had introduced its Cancer Survival plan in 2001 a year later than England).

Differences in 3 year survival patterns between England and Wales were not obvious, with no difference in survival trends at 3 years or more for patients diagnosed up to 2003, but there was a slightly faster increase in survival in England than in Wales between 2001–03 and 2004–06.

The authors said that the improvements in survival trends in England since 2004 might be related to the cancer plan, but called for detailed analysis of the effect of more specific measures in the cancer plan, such as shorter waiting times and the creation of multidisciplinary teams, on cancer survival.

Cancer Tsar Professor Mike Richards said both England and Wales had seen benefits from the cancer plan.

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