Monday 24 October 2016

Those from less well-off areas less likely to beat cancer

Published 25/11/2015 | 02:30

Worrying new figures reveal a stark difference in survival rates for two common cancers
Worrying new figures reveal a stark difference in survival rates for two common cancers

The rich-poor divide is continuing to leave people in the least well-off areas of the country facing lower odds of surviving cancer after five years.

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Worrying new figures reveal a stark difference in survival rates for two common cancers.

The early data from the National Cancer Registry of Ireland, due to be officially published early next year, shows the five-year survival rates for bowel cancer is 56pc in poor areas. This compares to 64pc for patients with the same disease in more affluent regions.

Poorer patients with lung cancer have a 16pc survival rate.

But survival for the better-off who have lung cancer stands at 22pc.

"Where you live has a significant impact on how long you live," said Kathleen O'Meara, head of advocacy and communications at the Irish Cancer Society.

The organisation will unveil the sharp divide in cancer survival rates at a conference in Dublin today.

"Cancer affects all parts of Irish society, but some people are more at risk than others," she pointed out. "The data shows that those in the poorest communities in Ireland have a reduced chance of surviving their cancer diagnosis.

"The new data highlights again that, if you come from a poorer community, you are less likely to survive cancer.

"This is hugely unfair. All communities and backgrounds should have equal access to diagnostics and fast treatment."

She suggested one of the contributory factors is the ongoing risk of delayed diagnosis by those who cannot afford to pay for scans themselves to find out if their symptoms are cancerous.

This is one of the barriers which is helping to maintain the 'cancer gap', where those from the most deprived communities are twice as likely to be diagnosed and die from cancer as those who are the least deprived, she warned.

"The reasons for the gap are multiple, but often the people in these communities have the greatest difficulties in accessing healthcare. Late diagnosis can lead to late treatment and to worse outcomes. In some deprived Dublin areas, there are not enough primary care resources - for instance, in North Dublin there is one GP for every 2,500 people. Nationally, this figure is one for every 1,600.

"It's going to take a big effort on the part of government, the HSE and organisations like the Irish Cancer Society to take action in closing this worrying divide. But it can be done."

Irish Independent

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