Graphic: Cancer survival rates in Norfolk up by almost 6pc

Library picture of Nikki Morris at the cancer summit meeting at the Assembly House in Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith Library picture of Nikki Morris at the cancer summit meeting at the Assembly House in Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith

Saturday, August 16, 2014
6:30 AM

Improvements to cancer services and treatment in East Anglia have today been laid bare following new statistics which reveal a surge in survival rates by almost 6pc.

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Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics have shown that over a ten year period - from 2001 to 2011 - 5.9pc more cancer patients in the region survived their first year of diagnosis.

The biggest increase was in West Norfolk, which saw cancer survival rates rise by 6.4pc from 62.3pc in 2001 to 68.7pc in 2011. This is followed by Norwich (5.8pc increase), South Norfolk (5.6pc increase), Great Yarmouth and Waveney (5.5pc increase) and north Norfolk (5.3pc increase), which saw 63.6pc of survivals in 2001 to 68.9pc in 2011.

Improvements such as better treatment, quick GP referral, early diagnosis and raising awareness have all been praised as factors which have contributed to the rise.

Nikki Morris is a registered oncology specialist nurse and head of clinical services at local cancer charity The Big C and said on the face of it the figures were encouraging.

A nurse for 29 years, she added: “More and more people are being diagnosed with cancer because of a growing population and an aging population - particularly in Norfolk.

“Despite more people being diagnosed, we’ve also got the statistics to say more people are surviving cancer which is really important.”

She explained that an early diagnosis meant less treatment was needed which meant patients had a higher chance of survival. She also praised Norfolk’s NHS services and charitable organisations, which she claimed “ensured better survival rates and better outcomes” because of the support offered.

On the flip side of the coin the figures show that on average 31pc of cancer patients in East Anglia are still losing their battle to the disease within the first year.

Nationally this figure sits in the middle with the best survival rate for cancer at 24pc in north east Hampshire and Farnham while in Barking and Dagenham, east London, that figure is 38pc. The same proportion of patients die in this time frame in Crawley, West Sussex, Newham, east London, Swale, Kent, Thanet, also in Kent, and the Vale Royal health area - which covers Winsford, Northwich and surrounding rural areas in Cheshire.

So with almost three in ten patients in East Anglia still dying within 12 months of their diagnosis, can more be done?

“Although these figures are positive we should not be complacent,” Mrs Morris said.

“It is important to look at the story and the people behind the statistics. We are delighted with the stats but there is still a lot of work to be done.

“If people are worried about a change in their body they should see their GP and not worry about wasting their time.

“With the field of cancer you have got lots and lots of types which all behave differently. Some have more survival rates and some have less, while some cancers give you symptoms at an earlier stage.”

Mrs Morris praised the quality of research taking place in Norfolk, including the work at the University of East Anglia which includes research into breast and prostate cancer and also diet related to cancer. She also highlighted the importance of reaching all demographics.

“What we do know is areas of social deprivation have poorer survival rates.”

Echoing this, Macmillan Cancer Support said there was an “inexcusable” postcode lottery of care across England.

The charity estimated that if the whole country managed to match the survival rates seen in the 10 best-performing areas, 6,000 people would survive longer every year.

Juliet Bouverie, director of services and influencing at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “It’s a no-brainer - when patients have to wait longer for diagnosis and treatment their chances of surviving are significantly reduced.

“Failure to act now will see us fall further behind.”

• Have you been affected by the postcode lottery of care or cancer? Email health correspondent adam.gretton@archant.co.uk.

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