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“Post code lottery” for cancer survival, research shows

Some cancer patients are up to 68% more likely to survive five years after diagnosis in certain areas of England than others, new figures show.

Overall, there's been an increase in one and five-year survival rates, for eight of the 10 most common cancers. However for cancers of the oesophagus, stomach and lung, survival rates remained very low, with one-year survival less than 45% and five-year survival less than 20%.

Dr Noel Snell, director of research at the British Lung Foundation, said:“Lung cancer funding currently totals approximately a third of that allocated to breast cancer, around half that allocated to bowel cancer and less than half that allocated to leukaemia, despite killing more people than all three put together. It is therefore no surprise that survival rates of lung cancer continue to be so poor, even as they improve for other cancers.”

Moreover, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) said it had found "wide geographic differences in survival" for cancers of the oesophagus and stomach in men, and for cancers of the oesophagus, stomach, colon and bladder in women.

Duleep Allirajah, head of policy at Macmillan Cancer Support, said the statistics show an "alarming and unacceptable variation in cancer survival rates across the country.”.

"Delays in diagnosis and unequal access to treatment are likely to be contributing to this inexcusable post code lottery which is costing lives," he said.

Oesophagus cancer
44% of women suffering from cancer of the oesophagus survived for at least a year in Bristol, North Somerset, Somerset and South Gloucestershire, however this figure was 30.2% in Birmingham and the Black Country.

In Durham, Darlington and Tees 46.5% of men diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus from 2006 to 2008 survived for at least a year after diagnosis, but the figure was just 34.2% in South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw.

Stomach cancer
Men in Wessex had a greater chance of surviving stomach cancer, with 47.5% surviving for at least a year after diagnosis within the same period, compared to 35.2% in Cheshire, Warrington and Wirral.

Colon cancer
And more women in Bristol, North Somerset, Somerset and South Gloucestershire who were diagnosed with colon cancer in 2008 were more likely to live at least a year (74%) than in Cheshire, Warrington and Wirral (62.6%), while 73.3% of women in Arden, Herefordshire and Worcestershire who were diagnosed with bladder cancer survived at least a year compared to 55.6% in Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear.

Prostate cancer
Men with prostate cancer had a better outlook in Birmingham and the Black Country (86.3%) compared to Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire (70.9%).

Lung cancer
While 7.2% of women with lung cancer in the Surrey and Sussex area team lived for at least five years after being diagnosed in 2006 to 2008, 12.1% did in East Anglia, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Nick Ormiston-Smith, Cancer Research UK's head of statistics, said: "These statistics highlight the need for the NHS to have the investment, leadership and support to deliver better treatments to all patients, no matter where they live."