At least 1,000 Britons with lung cancer are dying needlessly each year because they are not offered surgery, according to new research.
A report from the Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery found the number of patients benefiting from surgery has risen 60 per cent in recent years while the death rate due to operations has been cut by half.
However researchers pointed to regional variations in who receives surgery - the only treatment that offers longer term hope for patients.
Just 7 per cent of lung cancer patients are still alive five years after diagnosis.
Even though around 30 per cent of lung cancer patients are eligible for surgery, the operation rate in England and Wales typically stands at 18 per cent.
This varies according to region, from 12 per cent in the worst performing area to almost 24 per cent in the best.
According to the study, the bottom five regions for operating rates are Sussex, East Anglia, Lancashire and Cumbria, South Wales and parts of London.
The top are Merseyside and Cheshire, Yorkshire, Birmingham and Kent.
Professor David Taggart, president of SCTS, said: “Increased rates of lung cancer surgery have been linked to improved survival for patients.
“Although the surgery carries risks, studies have shown that for every person who dies as a result of surgery, 35 people who would otherwise have died from their cancer are still alive five years on - so the potential to improve the outlook for this group is huge if we continue the improvements made in the past few years.
“If we could get the rate of operations across the country up to the standard of the best performing areas then at least thousand additional lives could be saved each year.”