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Ireland falls 10% behind Europe in some cancer survival rates

Ireland fell behind the average with colon, kidney, and ovarian cancer, while eastern Europe showed a lower overall survival rate.

Image: stethoscope and clipboard via Shutterstock

SURVIVAL RATES FOR some cancers in Ireland were as much as 13 per cent lower than the EU average.

While the number of adults surviving for more than five years after being diagnosed has risen steadily, a wide variation between survival rates still remains across Europe.

“The good news is that the number of adults surviving for at least 5 years after diagnosis has risen steadily over time in all European regions,” said study co-leader Dr Roberta De Angelis, ”reflecting major advances in cancer management such as organised cancer screening programmes and improved treatments.”

The findings, to be published in The Lancet Oncology, show that between 2000 and 2007 both Ireland and the United Kingdom fell behind the EU average when it comes to many common cancers, such as colon (52 per cent against an average of 57), and kidney (48 per cent compared to 61).

Irish survival rates for ovarian cancer were the lowest in Europe at 30.3 per cent. Sweden, at 44.1 per cent, had the highest rate in this category.

Commenting on the figures, the Irish Cancer Society said that “there are currently no effective screening programmes for kidney or ovarian cancers internationally.

“In addition, the symptoms for both kidney or ovarian cancers can be vague and diagnosis can be difficult.”

They added that this study pre-dates the full implementation of the National Cancer Control Programme, after which there has been “improvements in survival rates across all cancers”.

Thanks to advances in the early detection and treatment of cancer, overall 60 per cent of people in Ireland survive for five years or longer after a cancer diagnosis and go on to live a normal and healthy life.

Almost 171,000 patients diagnosed with cancer in Ireland between 2000 and 2007 were included in the research.

The figures were revealed in the latest EUROCARE-5 report and covers 50 per cent of the adult population and 77 per cent of children.

Countries in eastern Europe, such as Bulgaria, Poland, and Estonia, were found to have the lowest survival rates.

Nordic countries, except Denmark, and other countries such as Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands, Italy, Portgual, and Spain had some of the best survival rates.

The authors of the report suggested that lower rates of survival in the UK and Denmark was down to “delayed diagnosis”.

Childhood rates at 79 per cent

In a separate study from the EUROCARE-5 report, childhood survival rates at 5 years from diagnosis for all cancers combined was at 79 per cent.

This Europe-wide figure was up from 3 per cent from a similar study between 1999 and 2001.

The co-leader of the study, Dr Gemma Gatta from the Istituto Nazionale Tumori in Milan, Italy, suggest lower survival rates in Eastern Europe was due to a lack of efforts coordinated nationally to increase survival rates, although it did rise 5 per cent from previous studies.

“The main factors influencing poorer survival in eastern Europe include a shortage of public funding for cancer control, lack of national cancer plans,” she said, “and inadequate access to screening programmes and up-to-date treatment protocols.”

Read: Global health inequality could be eliminated by 2035 — report >

More: Cancer death rates for Ireland’s older women higher than EU average >

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Nicky Ryan

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