Research

Warning over 'postcode lottery' in cancer diagnosis damaging chances of survival

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Cancer Research UK has released the figures as it launches a new campaign

A diagnosis lottery means cancer patients in a few parts of the country have a much better chance of surviving than others, according to a new report.

A breakdown of the figures showed nearly a quarter of breast cancer patients in London - roughly 1,000 women - were diagnosed late compared with just 10% in Leicestershire and Lincolnshire.

Cancer Research theĀ United Kingdom says if all regions matched the best performing area, that's how many cancers could be spotted.

Survival chances of a few of the more common cancers can be more than three times better if the disease is caught during stages one or two.

In Bath, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, only 40.3% of patients wait until stage 3 or 4 of the disease before they are diagnosed.

Merseyside was identified as one of the worst performing regions, with 49 percent of patients diagnosed at the advanced cancer stages of three and four. A review of dozens of studies showed 63 percent of survivors continued working or returned to work after treatment, the researchers explained, yet depending on cancer type and stage, estimates ranged anywhere from 24 percent to 94 percent.

"So it's unacceptable to see such variation across England, with a few areas falling far behind others in prompt diagnosis of different cancers".

"We need to ensure that people with unusual or persistent changes to their bodies seek help rather than ignoring or putting up with potential cancer symptoms". After a cancer diagnosis, the probability of a patient being employed dropped by nearly 10 percentage points, and hours worked declined by up to 200 hours, or about five weeks of full-time work, in the first year, the study found. Zajacova and her colleagues analysed 1999-2009 data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, a nationally representative, prospective, population-based observational study with individual and family-level economic information.

Dr Jodie Moffat, head of early diagnosis at Cancer Research United Kingdom, said: "We don't know for sure why there's such variation across England and it's likely that a lot of factors are coming into play".

"This sex difference may be a result of the lower overall labor-market participation of women", said the authors or "it is also possible that the economic impacts may be greater for men if they suffer from types of cancer or treatments that have greater effects on their ability to work or if their jobs are more physically demanding and less compatible with the rigors of treatment".

Next week the charity launches its Early Diagnosis Campaign, which will encourage people to spot unusual changes in their bodies and alert their Global Positioning System about possible cancer symptoms. "I urge it to commit to the full package of recommendations as quickly as possible to get the best possible outcomes for all cancer patients".

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