Cancer survival rates up but ‘still low in some types’
SURVIVAL rates for cancer in Wales are higher than ever before – but the country is still lagging behind England and Northern Ireland in some types of the disease.
New figures from Public Health Wales show improvements against both oneyear and five-year survival rates.
Between 2010 and 2014, 72.7% of cancer patients were surviving one year after diagnosis.
That’s an increase on 69.4% for 2005-09, 65.9% for 2000-04 and 60.7% for 1995-99.
And more than half (57.1%) of cancer patients were still alive five years after their diagnosis, an improvement on 53.8% in 2005-09, 49.7% in 2000-04 and 43.9% in 1995-99.
But cancer charities have warned that survival rates remain “stubbornly low” in some cancer types.
Liver, lung and pancreas cancer had the worst survival rates in 2010-14, while patients were statistically more likely to survive over one or five years if they had melanoma (skin), prostate and breast cancer.
Despite liver cancer having the third worst outcomes of any form of cancer, it saw the greatest improvement – up from 26.7% in 2005-09 to 36.3% in 2010-14.
Cancer of the brain and central nervous system (up 8.2 percentage points), kidney (7.4) and ovary (6.1) also saw the greatest improvement in the period. Over five years, ovary (6.1), kidney (5.8) and melanoma (5.6) improved the most between 2005-09 and 2010-14.
Dr Tom Crosby, medical director of the Wales Cancer Network and Consultant Oncologist at Velindre Cancer Centre said: “It is pleasing to see this small but meaningful increase in survival, especially in cancers such as lung, where there has been a focus on improved outcomes for patients.
“This together with the recent Wales Patient Experience Survey is due to the hard work and commitment of clinical staff in primary care and hospitals throughout Wales.
“Although these latest statistics sound positive, there is a long way to go before we match the best in Europe.
“It is therefore important that clinicians continue to work together with the NHS and the Welsh Government to improve cancer survival in Wales.”
Cancer registries across the UK are now using a common method to produce survival figures, which means Wales has been directly compared with England and Northern Ireland for the first time.
Scotland will publish their data in November 2017.
While, in most cases, the percentages are very marginal, Wales has performed worse than England in the survival rates of many cancer types in 2010-14.
Among the one-year survival rate for men, Wales performed worse than England in prostate, melanoma, bowel, non-hodgkin lymphoma, kidney, oesophagus, and lung cancer.
It was a similar picture for women, with Wales only beating England’s survival rate on bladder and lung cancers.
But Public Health Wales concluded that there were no “statistically significant” differences in five-year survival between Wales and England for any of the cancer types, in either men or women.
Macmillan Wales has called for changes to the cancer workforce as the new figures have revealed a long-term trend of increasing numbers of people being diagnosed.
Some 19,088 new cases of cancer were diagnosed in Wales during 2015 – a 10% increase compared to 10 years earlier.
With the number of new cancer cases now also peaking in 65 to 69-year-olds – 10 years younger than in 2006 – concern has also been raised about how this will impact on the long-term quality of life of people affected by cancer.
Susan Morris, head of services for Macmillan in Wales, said: “The story of cancer is thankfully changing. People are living longer after a cancer diagnosis. But whether its emotional, financial, physical and practical – we need to ensure everyone affected by cancer receives the support, information and advice they need not just to live, but to live well with a cancer diagnosis.
“While these latest statistics are positive, we also have to acknowledge that there is a long way to go before we match the best cancer outcomes already being achieved in Europe.”