International Cancer Study Shows UK Lags Behind Other High Income Countries

A study by the International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership (managed by Cancer Research) has found that cancer survival in the UK has improved, but the country is still not performing as well as other high income countries such as Norway and Australia.
The study, which was published in the Lancet Oncology, looked at 3.9 million cancer cases between 1995 and 2014 in 7 comparable countries – Australia, Canada, Denmark, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway and the UK.

Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of early diagnosis, said: “More people than ever before are surviving cancer thanks to research and targeted improvements in care. But, while we’re on the right track, the numbers show we can certainly do better. We will not see the necessary improvements in diagnosis and access to treatment unless we have enough of the right staff across our NHS.“

RMS Clinical Director William Bailey commented on the study:

“Early diagnosis is so important in cancer cases – the smooth and efficient running of the diagnostic imaging department is central to early diagnosis. Unfortunately the UK is suffering from a severe shortage of qualified radiographers and waiting lists are increasing as a result. When the Faster Diagnosis standard is introduced in April 2020 imaging departments will be under even more pressure to meet cancer diagnosis timescales. We know that early diagnosis can impact patient survival rates, that is why it is important to staff and manage the diagnostic imaging department in new and innovative ways, to ensure that patients can be scanned and on their way to treatment sooner.”

The study found that one-year and five-year survival rates had improved across all seven cancer sites in the UK across the 20-year period. Five-year survival for rectal cancer in the UK rose by 14 percentage points** since 1995, from 48% to 62%. The UK also has one of the highest increases in five-year survival – almost 12 percentage points – across all countries for colon cancer. This can potentially be attributed to advances in treatment such as better surgery, among other factors.

Australia came top for five of the different cancers. The UK was near the bottom of the tables for all types of cancer including being in last place for stomach, colon, rectum, pancreas and lung cancers.

You can read Cancer Research’s full press release here.

**Percentage point change refers to the absolute increase or decrease of a percentage (i.e. from 12% to 16% = 4% point increase). Percentage change refers to the proportional increase or decrease of a percentage or figure (i.e. from 12% to 16% = 33% increase)