Almost 90 per cent of breast cancer patients needing surgery in the north of England can expect to be operated on by specialist surgeons according to a report based on the latest available figures.
But patients with bowel cancer are not so fortunate. The report, by the Northern and Yorkshire Cancer Registry and Information Service (NYCRIS), says that only 38 per cent of colorectal surgical cases are treated by specialist bowel cancer surgeons.
Professor David Forman, of Cancer Research UK and Director of Information and Research at NYCRIS, says these figures, based on data from 1999, help give an accurate picture of facilities in the north.
“Most cancer registries in the UK have been unable to evaluate accurately how many patients receive surgery from specialists,” he says.
“The fact that breast cancer patients are more than twice as likely than bowel cancer patients to be treated by a specialist surgeon reflects the fact that breast cancer has had a higher profile over the last decade.”
Prof Forman also reports that the lung cancer rates in the north are well above the national figures, which is largely attributable to the region’s known larger number of smokers.
“But while there is a decline in the rates of both lung cancer and smoking in men, there are concerns about the uptake of smoking by young women – something that will be reflected in future cancer statistics, he says.”
General treatment for cancer patients in the North is on course to meet the national guidelines’ target for 2005 with 69 per cent of cancers being treated within one month of diagnosis.
NYCRIS figures show that 92 per cent of patients with breast cancer are waiting less than one month from diagnosis to treatment. And 73 per cent of patients with testicular cancer receive treatment within one month of referral – a 10 per cent increase since 1998.
Sir Paul Nurse, Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK, says: “The NYCRIS report supports the Government’s own statement that the NHS has too few cancer specialists – improving the specialist NHS workforce should remain a priority. The report also makes it clear that we need to continue our efforts to raise awareness about the dangers of smoking.”
A specialist surgeon is one who operates on more than an average of 50 cases a year.