UK Lung Cancer Survival Rate Should And Can Be Better….

…so say the United Kingdom Lung Cancer Coalition (UKLCC). Despite improvements in long-term survival on a national basis, lung cancer survival rates still need to vastly improve in the UK. The 25 by 25, which is a 10-year strategy to improve lung cancer survival rates, reveals that the UK is still failing those affected by lung cancer.

The ambition of the 25 by 25 is to raise the 5-year survival rate to 25% by 2025. The UKLCC launched a series of surveys to assess the attitudes on long term survival across the lung cancer community, which included healthcare professionals, GPs, patients and their carers.

The following factors were highlighted:

  • Prevention – tobacco use is the most important preventable cause of lung cancer in the UK, with 86% of cases being caused just by smoking
  • National Screening – 52% of health care professionals believe that national screening for lung cancer should be introduced
  • Lack of Awareness – patients are not aware of the signs and symptoms of lung cancer and so usually visit the doctor too late
  • Referral and Diagnosis – a prompt referral and early diagnosis is needed to ensure fast treatment
  • Treatment and Variation – there are regional inequalities in care which needs addressing and improving

Across the UK, Wales has the lowest 5-year survival rate of 6.6% and lung cancer caused 22% of all cancer deaths in Wales. In comparison, England has an estimated 16% 5-year survival rate, yet lung cancer is still the biggest cancer killer in England.

Scotland and Northern Ireland do not fare any better with Scotland having a 9.8% 5-year survival rate with 4,117 deaths caused by lung cancer in 2014. Northern Ireland’s 5-year survival rate is 10.5% and 45% of lung cancer cases were only discovered when patients visited accident and emergency.

The report concluded that the key factors in improving survival rates were:

  • Improvement of early diagnosis rates
  • Optimising referral and treatment pathways
  • Educating the public about the signs and symptoms of lung cancer. Only 25% of patients went to see their doctor when they recognised the symptoms

Overall patients are optimistic about survival rates with 50% of patients and carers believing that 5-year survival is achievable, however less optimistically, 65% of health care professionals believe that it is difficult to achieve, with 15% believing that it is not achievable at all.

There has to be a need to try and meet the expectations of those affected and the UK Government has identified that this is an area that needs improving.  Public awareness campaigns about the signs and symptoms of lung cancer have been rolled out across the nations, coupled with several initiatives to optimise care pathways and receive an early diagnosis.

With the 25 by 25 report having just been released, it is also worth noting that November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month.  With lung cancer killing nearly 35,900 people in 2014 in the UK alone, more than breast and bowel cancers combined, it is something that we should all be talking about and spreading awareness of.