Cancer survival depends on where you live

Your chance of surviving Scotland’s biggest cancer killer varies depending on where you live in the country, according to a new report.

The ‘Explaining Variations in Lung Cancer in Scotland’ report, which was commissioned by The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, was launched at Holyrood yesterday (Tues Nov 15th).

It found more people are diagnosed with lung cancer and more people die from the disease in the most deprived areas of Scotland.

According to the report, a person from Greater Glasgow and Clyde is nearly twice as likely to develop lung cancer as someone from Grampian and, once they have developed the illness, will be nearly twice as likely to die from it as a lung cancer patient from the Borders.

There is also significant variation in estimated one-year survival rates across Scotland. In some areas, such as Fife, as few as approximately one in four people is alive one year after a diagnosis of lung cancer.[iii] In other areas, such as Lothian and the Borders, one in three people is alive one year after their diagnosis.

NHS Borders has the highest estimated one-year survival rate at 35.6%. This figure demonstrates the poor prognosis for patients with lung cancer overall, as nearly two thirds of all patients are not expected to survive one year post-diagnosis, even in the best performing area.

Professor Ray Donnelly, President of the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, said: “Each year, over 4,000 people die from lung cancer in Scotland – that’s more than 11 people each day.

“Despite this, awareness of the signs and symptoms of lung cancer is low and more than two thirds of patients are diagnosed at a stage when curative treatment is no longer an option.

“Once patients are diagnosed with lung cancer, there are significant variations across the country in treatment and outcomes. There are many reasons for these variations, for example, lung cancer patients from deprived areas may be more likely to have other health problems which affect their chances of surviving the disease.

“The purpose of this report is not to criticise, but to act as a catalyst to encourage those involved in managing and providing lung cancer services, to look at data from their own area and examine variation. And so, look for solutions to bring those areas with poorer outcomes up to the standard of the very best in order to improve the experience of lung cancer patients and save lives.”

Key findings of the report include: Lung cancer incidence and mortality rates are highest in the most deprived regions of Scotland, Scotland has the highest UK smoking prevalence rate at 24%, 3% higher than England and Wales, Scotland has a low five-year survival rate for lung cancer, compared to other similar countries in Western Europe – Norway, Sweden and Finland, there is an almost two-fold variation in lung cancer incidence and mortality across health boards in Scotland. There may be a number of factors associated with this.

Lung cancer has, by far, the worst one-year survival rate of the ‘big four’ cancers with only 30% of lung cancer patients alive one-year after diagnosis compared to 94% breast cancer patients, 93% of prostate cancer patients and 75% of bowel cancer patients, nearly two thirds of all patients are not expected to survive one year after diagnosis even in the best performing area of Scotland, there are 25 (whole time equivalent) lung cancer CNSs working in Scotland, looking after more than 4,000 lung cancer patients every year and on average, only one in fourteen people with lung cancer in Scotland will survive five years after their diagnosis.