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Cancer survival rates increasing

More people are surviving the four most common cancers in England, a report said today.

Five-year survival rates for breast, lung, prostate and colon cancer have risen, a round-up from the Office for National Statistics showed.

More patients were alive at year five if they were diagnosed between 2003 and 2007 than if they were diagnosed between 2001 and 2006.

The difference was high for women with breast cancer (1.3%), people with colon cancer (1.5%) and men with prostate cancer (2.7%).

The difference was small (0.4%) for lung cancer, which is often diagnosed in its later stages.

Survival rates were also higher for several other cancers monitored over the same period.

The largest increase in five-year survival between 2001-2006 to 2003-2007 was 3.5% for men diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma (from 54.7% to 58.2%) and 3.4% for myeloma (from 30.1% to 33.5%).

Myeloma also showed the largest increase (2.8%) in survival for women (from 29.9% to 32.7%).

More men survived testicular cancer than any other cancer (96.2%) while more women survived malignant melanoma (90.1%).

The lowest five-year survival in both sexes was for pancreatic cancer: 3.1% in men and 3.3% in women.

Ciaran Devane, chief executive at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: "It's welcome news that there are more cancer survivors because of both the improvements in treatment and an ageing population, but this does not show the whole picture.

"After treatment ends, many patients feel abandoned by the NHS and struggle to cope with the long-term effects cancer, and cancer treatment, can have on their bodies, careers and families.

"The next government needs to ensure all cancer patients have the support they need to manage the long-term effects of cancer treatment.

"The current NHS follow-up service is costly and ineffective and must be replaced."

Jane Hatfield, director of policy and research at Breast Cancer Care, said: "It is very encouraging that breast cancer survival rates have continued to improve as a result of efforts across all sectors.

"However, separate research has shown that one-year survival rates are lower for women from disadvantaged communities compared to those from affluent groups.

"Additionally, the survival rates in UK women with breast cancer over the age of 75 are much lower compared to other European countries.

"There is an urgent need to tackle these inequalities in survival from breast cancer."

Dame Helena Shovelton, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: "Survival rates for people with lung cancer are extremely poor in comparison with other cancers.

"At present only 50% of people diagnosed with lung cancer are offered any kind of active treatment. This needs to change.

"We want better early diagnosis followed by increased rates of resection surgery and follow-on treatment.

"There is also an urgent need to increase the number of specialist lung cancer nurses to help to eradicate the inequalities in lung cancer care."