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Poorer cancer patients a third less likely to survive long term

Cancer patients in England are 33% less likely to be alive five to ten years after diagnosis if they are from the most deprived areas than the least1, according to new research by Macmillan Cancer Support and the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN).

This research, being presented at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) conference in Liverpool today, reveals for the very first time how the proportion of people living with and beyond cancer varies according to socio-economic deprivation.

The number of cancer survivors diagnosed in the last decade in the most affluent areas of England (250,000) substantially outweighs the number of those in the poorest (170,000). This is despite the fact that the rate of cancer diagnosis is higher in deprived areas.

Furthermore, the gap between the most and least deprived groups increases over time. People alive up to one year after diagnosis are 30% more likely to come from the least deprived areas than the most. Among those diagnosed five to ten years previously, this rises to 57%.

Almost a quarter (23%) of those who survive more than five years and up to ten years after being diagnosed with cancer are amongst the wealthiest members of the population, while the poorest account for just one in seven (15%).

The reasons for these differences need to be explored further, however some important factors could be: how advanced the disease was when it was diagnosed5, awareness of signs and symptoms and willingness to visit their GP.

Mike Hobday, Director of Policy and Research at Macmillan Cancer Support, says:

“It is simply unacceptable in this day and age that your chances of surviving cancer depends on whether you live in an affluent area or not. Cancer patients must not be penalised for coming from a deprived part of the country.

“Everyone with cancer deserves the best possible chance of recovery, regardless of how much money they have or where they live. A cancer recovery package after treatment and access to specialist services to help people deal with the long-term consequences of treatment would go a long way to improving aftercare for all.”

Di Riley, Acting Head of NCIN, says:

“Public Health England’s National Cancer Intelligence Network is committed to contributing to these findings by increasing the availability of timely and accurate data on all people with cancer.”

No one should face cancer alone. The Macmillan team is here to support cancer survivors every step of the way. For more information visit www.macmillan.org.uk/survivorship or call 0808 808 00 00.

Readers' comments (2)

  • Why the surprise? Anyone with experience of the last conservative government knew that under the tories the gap between rich and poor would grow and that the services to the poor would be culled as punishment for being poor.

    Whilst at the same time we can all be labelled as scroungers, layabouts, dole-ites, lazy workers who need foreigners to 'teach us how to work' (quote from Jeremy Vine show and the Daily Mail); and generally undeserving of our own taxes, which we pay in abundance; as the rich are able to pay experts who can find ways for them to keep their money......
    so that they have enough to go private.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • I worked in an NHS programme for several years which was rolled out by the last government. It supported those of working age, with any physical and/or mental health condition which was a barrier to returning to a meaningful existence (whether that be returning to their existing job or looking at alternative lifestyle which accomodated the condition). Basically, we stepped into the area where treatment options were either complete or in maintainence phase and patients were given a pat on the head and told to 'Take it easy.' Although, not specifically aimed at Cancers survivors, we supported many who were at the other side of their immediate treatment.
    We were experienced professionals from Adult and Mental Health Nursing backgrounds, Physios and OTs. We dealt with symptom management, stress and depression. We had close links with our local CAB as debt and money worries were a huge issue. Our team, based in a socio-economically deprived inner city, won a Prince's Trust Health Innovations Award and independent evaluation of our service rated it as extremely effective and recommended it be rolled out further.

    Then along came ESA and ATOS, introduced by Labour and embraced by the Tories. The carrot was removed and the stick was brought in. We were shut down and redeployed. Patients left to their cope on their own again.

    MacMillan is a brilliant organisation and we are lucky that it exists, but it speaks only for those with cancer. The truth is that the same trends can be seen in any of the chronic illnesses. Poverty really is a hidden killer in this country.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

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