Scotland has some of the lowest survival rates for pancreatic cancer among 33 countries with comparable wealth and income levels, according to a new report by a group of charities.
The Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce (LSCT) analysed data from 2010 to 2014 on the five-year survival rates for six less survivable cancers: lung, liver, brain, oesophageal, pancreatic and stomach cancers.
The report found that Scotland ranks as low as 32nd for five-year survival for pancreatic cancer, 31st for stomach cancer and 29th for lung cancer. Wales is slightly better at 32nd for stomach cancer and 31st for pancreas and lung.
The countries with the highest five-year survival rates for these cancers were South Korea, Belgium, the US, Australia and China.
The LSCT estimated that if the UK had similar survival rates to those countries for less survivable cancers, then an additional 8,000 lives could be saved annually.
Why are UK’s survival rates so low?
The report said that there are many possible reasons why the UK lags behind other countries in terms of cancer survival. Some of these include:
- Delayed diagnosis: Many people are diagnosed with less survivable cancers at a late stage when they have already spread to other organs or tissues.
- Slow access to treatment: Many people face long waiting times or barriers to accessing timely and effective treatment options.
- Lack of research funding: Less survivable cancers receive a fraction (16.6%) of research funding compared to more survivable cancers.
- Socioeconomic factors: People living in poverty or deprived areas may have less access to health care services or preventive measures such as screening or vaccination.
What can be done to improve survival?
The LSCT called on all UK governments to commit to proactively investing in research and putting processes in place so that people can get diagnosed earlier and treated better.
The group also urged health professionals to raise awareness about less survivable cancers among patients and carers, and to provide them with support and information throughout their journey.
The LSCT chair Anna Jewell said: “We know that people diagnosed with a less survivable cancer are fighting against the odds for survival, but the figures we’re sharing today show that those living in Scotland and the rest of the UK have even worse prospects than those living in comparable countries.”
She added: “We can see from these statistics that if we could bring the survivability of these cancers on level with the best-performing countries in the world, then we could give valuable years to thousands of patients.”