Poverty harms bowel cancer survival
Thursday 14 June 2012
Bowel cancer patients living in the most deprived areas are 24% less likely to survive than more affluent patients, research suggests.
Scientists found that patients living in poorer areas are more likely to die within five years of treatment.
The study, which is to be presented at the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) conference in Birmingham, found that 9.6% of the most deprived patients died within 30 days of having surgery compared with 4.2% in the most affluent group.
The researchers, who looked at 4,300 patients who had surgery for bowel cancer, said this was partly because more patients from deprived areas were diagnosed with bowel cancer through emergency hospital attendance, with the disease at a later stage.
The poorer patients were also were also more likely to have other illnesses.
Raymond Oliphant, lead researcher and a clinical research fellow based at the University of Glasgow's West of Scotland Cancer Surveillance Unit, said: "This research further highlights that survival following treatment for bowel cancer is better in people from the most affluent areas and worst among the most deprived.
"This study builds on previous research in this area by giving more detail on both short- and longer-term survival differences between patients from different economic backgrounds and will help those working on ways to improve outcomes for bowel cancer patients."
NCIN head Chris Carrigan added: "This study once again stresses the urgent need to improve the health of people living in deprived areas and to make sure all cancer patients have an equal chance of surviving their cancer.
"Deprivation is one of the biggest causes of cancer inequality in this country. We know that people from more deprived areas are more likely to smoke or be very overweight.
"They are also less likely to be aware of signs and symptoms of cancer, probably leading to later diagnosis, which may further increase their chances of dying from their disease."
Cancer Research UK urged more people to have bowel screening if they notice anything unusual about their bodies.
Sarah Lyness, executive director of policy and information at Cancer Research UK, said: "It's extremely concerning that the most deprived patients are less likely to survive their cancer than patients who are well-off. And Cancer Research UK is working to better understand the role that deprivation plays.
"We need to ensure that all patients have access to the best treatment for their cancer, regardless of where they live, their age and their wealth, so that everyone has the best chance of surviving their cancer."
Mike Hobday, director of policy and research at Macmillan Cancer Support, added: "It is unacceptable that such a stark contrast exists between survival rates for bowel cancer patients simply depending on their wealth.
"More must be done to ensure that all cancer patients have the best possible chance of survival, whether poor or rich."
A Department of Health spokesman said: "Improving outcomes for cancer patients is a priority for this Government, which is why we are investing £750 million to support a range of actions that will make sure all patients have access to the best possible treatment, care and support.
"Central to the plans outlined in the Cancer Outcomes Strategy is an investment of more than £450 million of the additional funding to achieve earlier diagnosis.
"This money will go towards raising awareness of the symptoms of cancer, in addition to funding increased GP access to diagnostic tests and more testing and treatment in secondary care."
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