Lung cancer surgery and survival rates have improved in past five years

Lung cancer surgery and survival rates have improved in past five years

Lung cancer surgery and survival rates have both gone up in England and Wales over the past five years, the latest national audit for the disease shows.


Just over half (52%) of the 40,200 lung cancer patients in England and Wales covered by the National Lung Cancer Audit were confirmed as having non-small cell lung cancer, for which surgery offers the best chance of a cure when caught early enough.


Among these patients, 22% had surgery as part of their treatment, compared with 14% in 2008—an important measure of the quality of care for lung cancer patients, says the National Lung Cancer Audit: 2012 Patient Cohort published today.


Historically, the low number of patients undergoing surgery relative to other Western European healthcare systems has been regarded as part of the explanation for the poorer survival of lung cancer patients in the UK.


The audit also shows that median average survival from the date patients are first seen in secondary care increased by 16% over five years to 221 days, compared to 191 days in 2008. But only just over half (55%) of patients survived six months, and only 39% survived a year.


Regional variation in lung cancer treatment and outcomes persist, but these differences are narrowing, on some measures, shows the report. For instance, one measure looks at how many lung cancer patients receive any type of anti-cancer treatment. In 2011 the gap between the top and the bottom 25% stood at 10.7 percentage points; by 2012 it had narrowed to 8.5 points.


Based on audit data for patients first seen in 2012, today's report also shows that in England and Wales the percentages of patients with confirmed non-small cell lung undergoing surgery varied from 15 to 31%. Similarly, median survival time ranged between 179 and 280 days across the 30 cancer networks.


The figures also show that the proportion of patients seen by a lung cancer nurse specialist has risen from 79.5% in 2011 to 82.3%. It is recommended that all patients should have should see one of these nurses when they are diagnosed to guarantee that their physical, social and emotional needs, and their treatment options are appropriately assessed and discussed.


“It is encouraging to see that hospital teams all over the country have responded to the findings and recommendations of previous national lung cancer audits,” commented consultant in respiratory medicine, audit clinical lead and clinical lead for the National Cancer Intelligence Network, Dr Mike Peake.


“The rise in the proportions of patients undergoing surgery means that lives are being saved and longer survival times are giving patients more precious time with family and friends.”


He added: “I’m pleased to say that extent to which care varies from region to region is reducing on some measures, however it is vital that all clinicians involved in lung cancer to look really carefully at what they are doing and learn best practice from others where they can.”

By Caroline White

OnMedica, 4th December 2013

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