Assembly Pledge To Cut Cancer Deaths In Wales

A NEW drive was launched yesterday to improve Wales’ poor record for cancer survival. A programme of work for the NHS includes a review of genetic testing and surveillance of families at risk of certain cancers to ensure increasing demand is met.

A national survey of patients’ experience of the cancer care they received will also go ahead.

Patient groups, cancer networks and Wales’s cancer services coordinating group will also review and make recommendations to the Welsh Assembly Government on further waiting time targets.

New national standards will be developed for children and young people suffering from cancer and the HPV vaccination programme to reduce the risk of cervical cancer starts in September.

The initiative was unveiled by health minister Edwina Hart after a cancer charity called for more effort to tackle the disease.

The Wales-based charity Tenovus said Wales still performed worst of the UK nations on survival rates.

Mrs Hart published the work programme for the NHS, and improvements to regional cancer networks and other groups over the next three years.

The aim is to help prevent cancer, improve early detection and increase access to treatment.

Cancer survival rates in the UK generally lag behind much of the rest of the world, according to the first-ever global study, which puts the USA, Canada, Australia, Japan and France at the top of the league.

The study by a leading cancer epidemiologist Prof Michel Coleman, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, compared data from 31 countries, including the UK’s four nations.

England came 22nd in breast cancer survival rates, 19th in prostate cancer survival and 21st and 22nd respectively in women’s and men’s colorectal cancer survival, while Northern Ireland and Scotland do slightly better and Wales slightly worse.

The Assembly Government published Designed to Tackle Cancer in Wales in December 2006.

The first set of requirements up to March 2008 had been largely achieved, including reducing cancer waiting times and modernising diagnostic and radiotherapy equipment.

Health minister Mrs Hart said: “Our targets are to reduce death rates from cancer in those under 75 by 20% by 2012 and to achieve comparable five-year survival rates with the best in Europe by 2015.

“Although we have more to do, survival rates in Wales for a number of cancers continue to increase.”

The rate of survival for patients diagnosed with bowel cancer between 1995-99 compared with the previous five years were among the best in Europe, she said.

Investment in CT and MRI scanners was speeding up diagnosis.

“An additional £4.5m is being made available each year to improve services, and earlier this month, I announced a further £12m to replace and enhance facilities at the North Wales Cancer Centre,” Mrs Hart said. “The latest cancer waiting times figures also show that patients are being treated faster than ever before.”

Dr Paul Worthington from the charity Tenovus said: “The figures for cancer in Wales are clearly still a concern. While we recognise the good progress achieved, Wales still performs very badly in terms of cancer rates in comparison to other similar countries. We do have an aging population and have to be aware of lifestyle factors – smoking being one important area.

“More efforts need to be made with regards to accessing hard-to-reach areas in remote or more deprived parts of Wales with vital services.”

Tenovus was launching a mobile unit in the autumn offering diagnosis, treatment and support, he said.