NZ falling behind in cancer survival rates

Chemotherapy medication on an intravenous stand

The lowest survival a year after diagnosis was seen for stomach, colon, rectal and lung cancer in the United Kingdom, and for oesophageal cancer in Canada, pancreatic cancer in New Zealand and ovarian cancer in Ireland.

Advances in treatment and surgery are thought to be behind the UK's progress.

For the 2010-2014 interval, the study uncovered cancer survival costs were being better in Australia, Canada and Norway than in New Zealand, Denmark, Eire and the British isles.

New Zealand improved most on rectal cancer, but this was still the lowest improvement among the seven countries.

Cancer accounted for an estimated 9.6 million deaths in 2018, but while there has been improvements in cancel survival, Britain has been shown to be lagging behind other high-income countries.

The study looked at nearly four million cancer cases between 1995 and 2014.

What did the study find?

New Zealand is falling behind other countries - especially Australia - when it comes to surviving cancer.

But some countries did better than others.

Specialist cancer centres for highly complex cancer surgery (such as lung, pancreas and oesophageal) and better access to clinical trials had helped other countries accelerate past New Zealand in cancer survival rates.

This is the first worldwide study to look at changes in cancer survival alongside incidence and mortality for cancers of the oesophagus, stomach, colon, rectum, pancreas, lung and ovary.

"This new study shows that not only are we behind our comparator countries, progress has stalled and similar countries are accelerating ahead of us".

"Australia is delivering world-class cancer outcomes that New Zealand should also be able to provide", he said.

In comparison, Ireland made similar improvements, and Denmark even greater ones.

There's now no cure, but spotting the symptoms of cancer early can significantly increase a person's chance of survival.

The UK was also last in lung cancer (14.7%), in which Canada did best (21.7%), and stomach cancer (20.8%).

"Cancer survival continues to increase across high-income countries", with more patients with lung, stomach or ovarian tumors also still alive five years after diagnosis.

The improvements were better for the under-75s than the over-75s.

Dr Jackson said early detection - such as screening for bowel cancer - is key, along with early access to diagnostic tests and timely access to effective treatment such as PET scanning.

John Butler, a co-author of the study and clinical adviser to Cancer Research UK, said: "There isn't one specific reason why survival in the UK has improved - it's a combination of many different factors".

The results come before the development of WA's new cancer plan.

And UK lung cancer survival rates are now 14.7 per cent - worse than those in Canada 20 years before. More people are being looked after by specialist teams, rather than surgeons who aren't experts in that area. However, cancer programmes needed a redesign and funding to achieve this.

The largest improvements over the 20-year period were observed in survival at 5 years after diagnosis for cancers of the colon and rectum.

One-year survival has increased from 62% in 2001 to 72.8% in 2016.

In producing the announcement, Primary Minister Jacinda Ardern acknowledged the standard of most cancers care in New Zealand was variable.

"Through our NHS Long Term Plan, we will detect more cancers at an earlier stage, saving an estimated 55,000 lives a year".

An NHS England spokeswoman said the report was out of date and pointed to improved survival rates.

Cancer Society medical director Dr Chris Jackson, an author of the new global research, said Kiwis were dying of cancer who might otherwise have survived if they lived in another country. A global effort is required to streamline data collection and coding practices so that accurate comparisons can be drawn at an worldwide level and, in turn, lessons learned about policy and practices can be shared to improve the lives of patients with cancer.

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