Better diagnosis and treatment push up cancer survival rate

Cancer cells. Photo:

Better diagnostic techniques and treatments are improving cancer patients’ chances of survival in the first five years after diagnosis but not all cancer patients benefit equally, figures have shown.

The five-year survival rate for cancer has gone up to an average of 66% in the years between 2011 and 2020, averaging 1% per year. In the decade before that the survival rate was 58%.

The number of diagnoses of cancers that respond relatively well to treatment rose more quickly than that of cancers with a bad prognosis, which has driven up the survival rate for all cancers combined.

People who have mesothelioma, better known as asbestos cancer, or pancreatic cancer still have a low chance of survival after five years, as do those with bladder and stomach cancer.

Three groups of cancers can be distinguished, the figures indicate. The group with the highest five-year survival rate (75%) include breast, prostate and skin cancer and some forms of lymphatic cancer.

Cancer of the bowel, bladder, kidneys, neck and head and cervical cancer have a survival rate of between 30% and 75%. Lung cancer, a leading cause of death in Europe which is set to become part of a screening programme, cancer of the stomach, asophagus, pancreas and acute leukemia all have a survival rate of less than 30%.

Lockdown effect

The 1 year-survival rate of cancer patients who were diagnosed in 2020 was one percent lower than the preceding year (81% compared to 82%), a result, researchers said, of the interruption of screenings during the coronavirus lockdowns.

The Netherlands currently carries out mass screening for breast, cervical and bowel cancer. Over 117,000 people in the Netherlands are diagnosed with some form of cancer each year.

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