Cancer

18 February 2010

UK cancer survival rates, spending lag Europe

Cancer death rates are falling in Britain but the chances of surviving the disease are still worse than the European average and there has been little progress in closing the gap, according to a report on cancer on Wednesday.

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LONDON (Reuters) - Cancer death rates are falling in Britain but the chances of surviving the disease are still worse than the European average and there has been little progress in closing the gap, according to a report on cancer on Wednesday.England spends 5.6 percent of its public healthcare budget on cancer, compared to 7.7 percent in France, 9.2 percent in the United States and 9.6 percent in Germany, the report by the London-based think-tank the Policy Exchange said, and the cancer death rate is about 6 percent higher than the European average.It also found that spending on cancer medicines in England - whose health figures are monitored separately from other parts of Britain - is around 60 percent of that in other advanced European countries."Over the next ten years, tens of thousands of lives could be saved by improving cancer care to levels on a par with the best European countries," said Henry Featherstone, head of Policy Exchange's health unit and author of the report.He said that with earlier diagnosis and better targeting of resources towards older people and communities most at risk, authorities could make significant reductions in death rates, saving billions of pounds and averting the suffering caused to thousands of patients and families.The report, found the current cost of cancer is just over 18 billion pounds a year in England and could rise to as much as 25 billion pounds in the next decade.Included in those costs, were healthcare costs including hospices, costs to family and patient, and losses in productivity from cancer patients and from those who die.The report blamed late diagnosis, poor survival rates among older and more deprived people and relatively limited uptake of new treatments as the main reasons for the higher death rate.But it said if survival rates were improved to rank alongside the best in Europe "the savings - both in terms of lives and costs to society - would be huge", with more than 10 billion pounds saved accumulatively by 2020 and around 71,500 lives saved.The report called on health authorities to identify and adopt best practices in cancer services from the highest-performing European countries and to focus funds on earlier diagnosis and better treatments for older deprived people. It also emphasised the importance of prevention strategies, including anti-smoking initiatives.

 

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