UK & World News
Breast Cancer: UK Lagging In Survival Rates
Ageism and poor treatment are reducing women's chances of surviving breast cancer, new research suggests.
The study, funded by The Department of Health, revealed that women in Britain are far less likely to be alive three years after diagnosis than those in other well-developed countries.
Researchers at the Cancer Research UK Cancer Survival Group found that 87-89% of women in the UK and Denmark were alive three years after diagnosis, compared to 91-94% in Australia, Canada, Norway and Sweden.
Figures published in the British Journal of Cancer show the biggest difference was in women aged over 70. In the UK the three-year survival rate is 79%; in Sweden it is 91%.
The scientists say the findings suggest older women and those with more advanced disease are treated less aggressively in the UK.
Dr Sarah Walters, who led the research, said: "In the UK, women are diagnosed at a similar stage as elsewhere, but survival is lower than women with the same stage of disease in other countries.
"We should now investigate whether the treatment of women with later-stage breast cancer meets international standards. There is particular concern that this is not the case, especially for older women."
Sara Hiom, the charity's director of early diagnosis, said the survival gap between the UK and other countries is closing, but the country still fares worse.
"We know that UK women diagnosed with breast cancer are not routinely given CT scans to check if the disease has spread, which could mean we aren't always accurately staging more advanced disease.
"But we also need to investigate the possibility that fewer women with later stage breast cancer in the UK receive the best treatment for their circumstances."
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "This study will help us keep improving breast cancer treatment as part of our cancer strategy to save an extra 5,000 lives a year by 2014.
"We have worked with Macmillan Cancer Support to improve access to assessment, treatment and aftercare for cancer patients over 70.
"The NHS is also working to ensure all patients are treated as individuals and receive care that meets their healthcare needs whatever their age or condition."