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Aust tops cancer survival

Posted 12 September 2019

Australia is outranking high income countries when it comes to cancer survival according to a study, published in The Lancet today (Thursday).

The study by the International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership (ICBP) looked at survival rates for seven cancers using data from 3.9 million cases from population-based registries in seven high income countries from 1995-2014.

Over the last two decades, survival of seven cancers (oesophagus, stomach, colon, rectum, pancreas, lung and ovary) has generally improved in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway and the UK, although the overall level and pace of improvement varies between countries and for each cancer type.

Between 2010-2014, Australia had the highest five-year survival of five of the seven cancers investigated.

Colon cancer and rectal cancer had the highest survival rate with 70.8 per cent of patients in Australia living for five years after diagnosis, followed by stomach at 32.8 per cent, oesophageal at 23.5 per cent and pancreatic at 14.6 per cent.

Behind in lung, ovarian

However, Australia fell behind in five-year survival rates for lung and ovarian, whilst New Zealand had the lowest improvements over the 20-year period for both cancers.

Canada had the highest five-year survival at 21.7 per cent for lung cancer and Norway had the survival of ovarian cancer at 46.2 per cent.

The largest improvements in cancer survival were seen in patients diagnosed under the age of 75 years, compared to those aged 75 years and older, and for people who had cancers with poor prognosis such as oesophagus, stomach, pancreas and lung.

"The improvements in cancer survival observed are likely a direct consequence of healthcare reforms and technological advances that enable earlier diagnosis, more effective and tailored treatment and better patient management," lead author Melina Arnold said.

"Improvements in surgical techniques and new guidelines including preoperative radiotherapy as well as better diagnosis and scanning, enabling better staging of cancers and selection for targeted therapies, have all improved patient outcomes," Dr Arnold said.

The authors say that the cancer stage at diagnosis, timely access to effective treatment, and co-occurring health conditions are likely the main determinants of patient outcomes. Future studies will be needed to assess the impact of these factors and better understand these international disparities, they said.

Tiffany Walker

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