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New report challenges Government to improve poor lung cancer survival statistics

Posted: 19/10/2016

The UK Lung Cancer Coalition (UKLCC) has found that patient survival rates for those suffering from lung cancer in the UK are lagging behind the rest of Europe. The Coalition, which is made up of a number of lung charities and healthcare companies, has recommended drastic improvements to lung cancer care and is challenging the Government to increase the rate of survival.

Lung cancer is responsible for nearly a quarter of all UK cancer deaths each year, making it the country’s worst cancer in terms of number of fatalities. It has one of the lowest survival rates when compared with other cancers, killing over 35,000 people each year. This is more than the combined totals for breast, bowel, bladder and uterine cancer. Five year survival rates for breast cancer, for example, are up to ten times higher than lung cancer five year survival rates in England and Wales. In England only 16% of lung cancer patients survive five years after diagnosis, while the figures are even lower in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

The UKLCC proposes that the Government should aim to increase the survival rate to 25% by 2025 which, it predicts, would save around 11,000 lives. It has called for 20 key actions to help achieve this goal. A poll of 150 lung specialists presented in the report found that the most important factor for improving survival statistics was early diagnosis. The report’s recommendations therefore include measures to improve diagnosis and early detection, as well as the introduction of UK-wide screening for all groups at risk and an audit of cancer waiting times.

Although lung cancer is not just a ‘smoker’s disease’, around seven out of eight sufferers have smoked, so the UKLCC has identified that reducing the number of smokers in the UK would be one of the key factors in decreasing the number of deaths each year. Better and more freely available support for those trying to quit smoking was recommended, as were more campaigns to raise awareness of cancer symptoms. For example, it was found that 40% of patients were unaware that chest pain, weight loss and tiredness are all symptoms of lung cancer.

The Chair of the Coalition, Richard Steyn, said: “This report breathes new energy and enthusiasm into a lung cancer community which recognises that there is much more work to do. A lung cancer diagnosis should not be a death sentence.” The full report can be read here.

Camilla Wonnacott, associate in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches, commented: “The survival rates for lung cancer compared to the combined totals for some other cancers are quite shocking. The UKLCC report highlights that the most important factor which can improve survival rates is early diagnosis. Sadly, we see cases where early diagnosis of cancer was missed, often with tragic consequences. If you are concerned that you or a member of your family suffered a delay in diagnosis of cancer, our specialist team will be able to assist you.”

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