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NHS Performance 2000 Thursday, 13 July, 2000, 22:39 GMT 23:39 UK
Cancer rates reveal regional divide
Your chances against breast cancer vary from place to place
Your chances of surviving cancer depend on where you live, government performance figures suggest.

And the gap between the best and worst health authority areas is worrying experts, who branded it "postcode mortality".

Breast Cancer five year survival rates - top and bottom five
East Surrey - 83.7%
Hillingdon - 80.3%
Croydon - 79.7%
Bromley - 79.6%
Kingston and Richmond - 79.2%...
Liverpool - 67.5%
Tees - 67.2%
Sheffield - 67.2%
Newcastle and North Tyneside - 65.8%
North Staffordshire - 64.5%
Some of the difference may be due to general health differences between affluent and deprived areas.

But some fear that lack of investment in cancer drugs and radiotherapy equipment - coupled with a shortage of specialists leading to delays in diagnosis - are all playing their part.

Wide variations exist in many common cancers, including lung, breast and colon.

Even in the best circumstances, only approximately 8% of lung cancer patients survive five years.

smear test
Early detection is saving lives
However, in Rotherham, you have only a quarter of that chance.

A spokesman for the health authority said that while they were concerned about the accuracy of this figure, they were putting their efforts into improving.

He added: "Survival for lung cancer in Rotherham in has actually been improving over the last 15 years - that doesn't mean we are not doing what we can.

"It is a rather deprived area of the country and smoking rates are higher compared to some more affluent areas."

Although survival rates are much higher for breast cancer, the national variations are bigger too.

Colon cancer survival - top and bottom fives
Herefordshire - 52.4%
West Surrey - 52.2%
Coventry - 50.6%
North and Mid Hampshire - 49.7%
Dorset - 49.6%...
Gateshead and South Tyneside - 28.8%
North Cheshire - 28.7%
Southern Derbyshire - 26.9%
Newcastle and North Tyneside - 26.1%
Tees - 24.9%
In East Surrey, 83.7% of women are alive five years after diagnosis, while in North Staffordshire, only 64.5% make it that far.

Big cities like Newcastle, Liverpool and Manchester fare little better, with rates of 65.8%, 67.5% and 68.9% respectively.

The chances for colon cancer patients seem far better should they live in Herefordshire, West Surrey or Coventry - they have more than a 50% chance of making to the five year mark.

But in Teeside, Newcastle again and Southern Derbyshire, their chances are halved.

Professor Gordon McVie, director general of the Cancer Research Campaign, praised the government's honesty in releasing the figures, and for "accepting that we have postcode mortality rates in the UK".

He added: "When school performance tables are published, you get people moving into the catchment area of a good school, and I would not be at all surprised if people start moving into the catchment area of a well-performing health authority."

Some health authorities refuse to fund some of the more recently-licenced cancer drugs.

The Campaign for Effective and Rational Treatment (CERT) this week accused the NHS of underfunding cancer drugs to the tune of 200m.

Other parts of the performance indicators show that the government's pledge that all suspected cancer cases be seen inside two weeks is not yet taking hold.

While the majority of health authorities reported 90% of such patients getting their appointment in time (if the GP had asked for it immediately), in Croydon, less than 60% of patients are meeting the target.

See also:

13 Jul 00 | NHS Performance 2000
13 Jul 00 | NHS Performance 2000
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