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More lung cancer patients having surgery

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People diagnosed with lung cancer are more likely to get surgery as part of their treatment compared to a few years ago, new data shows.

Just over a fifth (22%) of patients with non small cell lung cancer - for whom surgery offers the best chance of a cure when caught early - had surgery in 2012, compared with 14% in 2008.

Just over half (52%) of the 40,200 lung cancer patients in England and Wales covered by the 2012 National Lung Cancer Audit had this type of cancer.

The report also showed that the typical average survival time for patients with lung cancer rose 16% to 221 days, compared to 191 days in 2008.

More than half (55%) of patients survived for six months and 39% survived for a year.

The study, which covers England and Wales, showed variations still exist depending on where people are treated.

The percentage of patients undergoing surgery varies from 15% to 31%.

The typical survival time also varies between 10 regional cancer networks, from 179 to 280 days.

Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of early diagnosis, said: “This is great news for lung cancer patients as surgery offers the greatest chance of cure.

“International studies tell us that survival for UK lung cancer patients continues to lag behind that of others and could be due to UK patients being diagnosed later and having poorer access to treatment, including surgery.

“And there’s even variation in diagnosis and treatment across England.

“This positive trend must continue as we can only gradually improve the very poor lung cancer survival rates by keeping a spotlight on the disease.”

Dr Mick Peake, audit clinical lead and clinical lead for the National Cancer Intelligence Network, said: “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.

“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.

“I’m pleased to say that the 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 look really carefully at what they are doing and learn best practice from others where they can.”

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