Cancer: rising survival rate in several wealthy countries
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Cancer: rising survival rate in several wealthy countries

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cancer is one of the main causes of deaths worldwide, and lung, liver, stomach, colon and breast cancer are the most common cause of death each year. Many cases can be prevented by avoiding the main risk factors, such as smoking. Just as a significant number of cases can be treated by surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, especially if they are detected early enough. One of its agencies, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), has just published a report that claims to be optimistic about patient survival in high income countries.

The study, which took into account 3.9 million cases of cancer in seven countries *, affirms that for seven common types of cancer (cancer of the esophagus, stomach, colon, rectum, pancreas, lung and ovaries), survival increased markedly between 1995 and 2014. And this although the level and the pace of improvement vary globally from one country to another and according to the type of cancer. “The improvements observed are probably a direct consequence of health reforms and technological advances allowing earlier diagnosis, a more efficient and personalized treatment, as well as better patient management, “says Dr. Melina Arnold, lead author of the report.

Colorectal cancer has the best survival rate

However, despite these improvements, international disparities persist. Several factors are mentioned: the stage of cancer at the time of diagnosis, quick access to treatment and concomitant health problems. Researchers estimate that the most significant improvement in this area over a 20-year period concerns the 5-year survival after diagnosis of rectal cancer. “Depending on the country, 48 to 59% of patients diagnosed in 1995-1999 survived for 5 years after diagnosis, this proportion rose to 62-71% for those diagnosed in 2010-2014”, explain the researchers. Australia has the highest survival rate, the United Kingdom the lowest.

Patient survival also increased for sites with a poorer prognosis, such as esophageal cancer, stomach, lung and ovary. An increase of up to 11 percentage points has been observed in some countries. “In general, greater improvements in survival have been seen in patients younger than 75 years of age at diagnosis compared to their older counterparts,” add the researchers. Pancreatic cancer has the lowest five-year survival rate, ranging from 7.9% in the United Kingdom (the lowest) to 14.6% in Australia (the highest), a country where progress in treating this cancer were the most important.

Finally, statistics for the most recent study period (2010-2014) indicate that the cancer survival rate studied were generally higher in Australia, Canada and Norway than in New Zealand, Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom. What about in France? The National Cancer Institute estimates that 382,000 new cancer cases were diagnosed in 2018 in mainland France, with cancers of the prostate, breast, colon-rectum and lung being the most frequent. “The majority of them can be detected earlier and earlier and be the subject of treatment giving patients better chances of recovery, with less after-effects, ”he explains.

* Australia, Canada, United States, Denmark, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom.

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