Cancer survival rates three times higher with early diagnosis

Data from Cancer Research UK suggests 80% of patients survive for at least 10 years after being diagnosed in early stages of eight of most common cancers

The survival rate for people with eight of the most common cancers is more than three times higher when the disease is diagnosed early, Cancer Research UK said on Monday.

Data for thousands of patients between 1996 and 2000 suggests just over 80% of those with cancer survive for at least 10 years when their disease is diagnosed at stage one or two but only a quarter of those diagnosed at stage three or four live for at least a decade more.

Ten-year survival is more than 90% for people whose cancer is diagnosed at stage one, compared with 5% for those whose disease is found at stage four.

The figures relate to people diagnosed in the east of England but Cancer Research believes they would be similar across the UK.

The cancers studied were bladder, bowel, breast, cervical, womb, malignant melanoma, ovarian and testicular cancers, which together account for more than four in 10 cancers. For the eight cancers, more than a quarter of cases are still diagnosed in the later stages, three and four.

Cancer stages are based on the size of tumours and how far they have spread through the body. More treatment options – and more effective treatments – are available in the early stages, said Cancer Research, which has previously reported that those diagnosed at an early stage cost significantly less to treat.

Sara Hiom, the charity’s director of early diagnosis, said: “These figures show the prize on offer if we can diagnose more cancers earlier. And, if the government acts on the recommendations in the new cancer strategy, we can increase the number of people diagnosed at an early stage across all cancer types – from around half of patients now to more than 60% per cent by 2020 – improving the outlook for thousands of people with the disease.”

Cancer survival has doubled in the past 40 years, said Hiom. But one in two people would be diagnosed with the disease at some point in their lives and early diagnosis and ensuring patients had access to the best treatment are essential to further improvements in survival.

“We need increased funding in NHS services and more research to develop tests to spot cancer sooner, and help more people to beat the disease.”

Dr Richard Roope, Cancer Research’s GP expert, said: “Diagnosing cancer early isn’t always easy – the symptoms may be vague or similar to less serious conditions, so cancer isn’t always the first thing you or your doctor considers. It’s important that people are aware of their bodies and, if they notice any unusual or persistent changes, they should see their GP.

“GPs play a critical role in early diagnosis; knowing when symptoms need to be investigated and referring patients promptly for tests, as well as making sure patients get test results quickly.”

Contributor

James Meikle

The GuardianTramp

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