Saturday 1 October 2016

Poor have 40pc less chance of beating cancer, report warns

Published 09/06/2016 | 02:30

Dr Harry Comber: can't explain the difference in survival rates
Dr Harry Comber: can't explain the difference in survival rates

The cancer gap between rich and poor leaves patients who are least well-off with a 40pc less chance of beating the disease, a stark report reveals.

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For some specific cancers, the difference in survival after five years was 50pc lower among the less well-off.

It also shows that patients aged 75 years and older at diagnosis are four times more likely to die from cancer than people in their forties and fifties.

The worrying report from the National Cancer Registry tracked patient survival rates for those who were diagnosed with the disease between 2008 and 2012.

Commenting on the divide, Dr Harry Comber, the Registry's National Director, said: "We cannot fully explain the difference. The less well-off population are less likely to have surgery. It varied between 4pc and 19pc depending on the cancer. We cannot answer why this is so. It can vary from cancer to cancer."

He said some cancers of the breast, stomach and melanoma also tend to be seen at more advanced stages among the more deprived.

"For other cancers, like cancer of the bowel or cervix, we don't see that difference."

Another factor affecting ability to fight may be the patient's overall state of health and whether they have other serious illnesses.

Lower percentages of older people also have tumour directed treatment and are less likely to be treated with surgery or radiotherapy than younger patients.

They were 72pc less likely to have chemotherapy and had a 22pc less chance of having radiotherapy. The difference in survival for older patients was greatest for breast, prostate cancer and lymphoma.

The report highlighted the higher cancer incidence in the most deprived areas.

It was as much as 120pc for cervical cancer, 60pc for lung cancer and 40pc higher for stomach cancer.

Other studies have found a link between lifestyle factors such as smoking and poorer diet increasing cancer risk among the least well-off.

However, rates of breast cancer were 15pc lower and melanoma was 30pc lower than in the better-off areas.

Dr Comber said that overall the findings are not unexpected.

It is not possible to say if the gap is widening as the index of deprivation used had not been applied previously.

The trends coincide with the re-organisation of cancer services into eight centres of excellence which are open to all patients, public and private.

The report did not examine if access to diagnostic scans was a factor in delayed diagnosis for some patients.

Previous statistics have shown that some public patients can wait considerably longer for a scan compared to the privately insured.

Irish Independent

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