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Action urged over cancer death rates

A cancer charity has called for action after it was revealed cancer sufferers in some parts of the country have significantly less chance of survival than those living elsewhere.

Cancer Research UK said there was “no excuse” for the differences and called for urgent action from the government.

The second annual cancer reform strategy report, released by the Department of Health, shows, for example, that a lung cancer patient in Herefordshire is three times more likely to die within a year of diagnosis than a patient in Kensington and Chelsea.

The report also shows almost all primary care trusts are failing to match the best cancer survival rates in Europe.

The report says:

  • For lung cancer, Kensington and Chelsea has the best one-year survival rate (43.7 per cent), while the worst is in Herefordshire (15.4 per cent). The national average is 28.1 per cent.
  • For bowel cancer, one-year survival is 80 per cent in Telford and Wrekin but just 57.9 per cent in Waltham Forest. The international “good practice” level is 79 per cent.
  • For breast cancer, one-year survival is 99 per cent in Torbay but just 89 per cent in Tower Hamlets.

Cancer Research UK chief executive Harpal Kumar said: “Patients are undoubtedly not being diagnosed early enough in large parts of the country, nor are they getting equal access to the best treatments, such as surgery for lung cancer.”

He said the national awareness and early diagnosis initiative now needed further investment to speed up its work and called for PCTs to make earlier diagnosis a “major priority”.

Health secretary Andy Burnham said: “We know that survival rates vary across the country, particularly in deprived areas, so this year’s report has deliberately focused on local variations so we can highlight to the NHS where they need to take action.

National cancer director Professor Mike Richards said: “This year we have seen a further fall in cancer mortality. The challenge now is to keep up this momentum and this year I have identified tackling local variations as my top priority. I urge all PCTs to use this new data to take action so we can improve outcomes for all cancer patients.”

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