Postcode lottery causing 6000 annual cancer deaths

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Figures from Macmillan Cancer Support have shown that about four in 10 patients will die within the first year of diagnosis in Barking and Dagenham. This is compared to one in four in the best cancer treatment areas, Farnham and North East Hampshire.

The charity has discovered that if national survival rates were the same as those in the top ten treatment areas, more than 6000 people could live longer lives.

Juliet Bouverie, the director of services at Macmillan Cancer Support, said that their analysis indicates a postcode lottery which results in 6000 unnecessary deaths each year.

She said that because patients have to wait for extended periods of time for diagnosis and treatment, their chances of survival are greatly reduced. She added that it is a disgrace that survival rates continue to fall behind those of other European countries and failure to act swiftly will see Britain lag further behind. She asked that all Westminster political parties make cancer a top priority ahead of the general election and offer a commitment to reduce the number of people who have to wait for diagnosis.

The charity has issued a warning that some of the differences in survival rates are due to patients receiving diagnoses at later stages of the disease. This may be due to their GP not spotting the warning signs or the patients not visiting their doctor timorously.

The analysis done by the charity was based on all cancers in adults diagnosed in England during 2011.

Sean Duffy, the national clinical director for cancer at NHS England, said that although cancer survival rates have improved over the past few years, they are aware that there is still a huge variation, which implies that more needs to be done to try and match the figures available in Europe. He said that the earlier a patient receives a diagnosis, the better the result will be.

An average of 68% of British patients survived in excess of one year. This figure increases to 71% in the top 10% of clinical commissioning groups.

Macmillan states that their calculations took cognisance of the cancers which are known to have a poor prognosis, impoverished areas, and those areas with a prevalence of older people where more cancer cases exist.

Areas with highest rate of deaths within one year of diagnosis:

• Thanet with 38%
• Barking and Dagenham with 38%
• Vale Royal with 38%
• Crawley with 38%
• Swale with 38%
• Newham with 38%
• Medway with 37%
• Telford and Wrekin with 36%
• Luton with 36%
• Waltham Forest with 36%

Areas with lowest rate of deaths within one year of diagnosis:

• North East Hampshire and Farnham with 24%
• Central London – Westminster with 27%
• Barnet with 28%
• Richmond with 28%
• West Hampshire with 29%
• Surrey Heath with 29%
• Dorset with 29%
• Leeds North with 29%
• South Devon and Torbay with 29%
• Stockport with 29%

Image Credit: Eric Fischer

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