More have surgical treatment for lung cancer

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PATIENTS suffering from the country’s biggest cancer killer are getting better treatment but significant variations remain between hospitals, figures reveal today.

The National Lung Cancer Audit finds there has been a 50 per cent rise in surgery for the condition in the last five years, with one in seven patients having an operation compared to one in 11 five years ago.

Lung cancer is often diagnosed at an advanced stage, which means as many as three quarters of patients are not suitable for surgery.

Doctors say the improved surgical rate suggests more specialists have developed expertise to assess patients of borderline fitness to go under the knife and have access to more complex surgical techniques often required.

But the survey of 37,600 cases in the UK first treated in 2009, including 4,000 in Yorkshire, finds significant differences between hospitals.

Rates of surgery are slightly higher in the region than the national average of 13.7 per cent of patients but in Scarborough only 8.8 per cent of patients had operations for the condition, rising to 9.5 per cent in Barnsley and 9.7 per cent at the Calderdale and Huddersfield trust.

In contrast 20.7 per cent of patients underwent operations in York, 18.9 per cent in Hull and 18.3 per cent at the Airedale trust, near Keighley.

Patients receiving active anti-cancer treatment ranged from 48 per cent at the Wakefield-based Mid Yorkshire trust, 49.7 per cent at Scarborough and 50 per cent in Rotherham to 63.8 per cent in Leeds, 63.5 per cent in Hull and 62.9 per cent at the Calderdale and Huddersfield trust. Average rates in the region of patients undergoing treatment were slightly below the national average of 59.1 per cent.

Rosemary Gillespie, chief executive of The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, said: “We are pleased to see some improvements, in particular, the significant increase in those lung cancer patients receiving surgery.

“However, marked geographical variation in the treatment and care for lung cancer patients, still exists across the UK. Where you live in the country should not determine what treatment you receive, it should be based on need, not postcode.

“And while we are pleased to see some improvements, the real improvement we would like to see is in survival rates, which still remain low.”

The report says there remains an “urgent need” for hospitals and cancer networks to use the information to review and improve their services.

It makes 14 recommendations to hospitals in England and Wales including calling for reviews at hospitals with rates of anti-cancer treatment below 60 per cent.

Experts said variations between hospitals were reducing and the UK was catching up with other countries in Western Europe.

Respiratory medicine specialist Mick Peake, clinical lead for the National Cancer Intelligence Network, said there was “clear evidence” standards of care were improving but there was still a wide variation in the standard or care between different hospitals.”

Respiratory specialist David Ford, based at Scarborough, said an external review of the lung cancer service in the town last year gave it a “glowing report” for its quality of care.

Patients tended to be older and more presented at a later stage of their illness, making figures not directly comparable.