Poor lung cancer care hinders survival, say experts

Lung cancer A persistent cough is one of the symptoms of lung cancer

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Poor care for lung cancer patients is "hindering" their survival, an expert group says.

The UK Lung Cancer Coalition said a lack of access to specialist teams and poor awareness about the disease were among the major problems.

The coalition, which includes doctors, patient groups and drug firms, said if standards could be raised as many as one in 10 deaths could be prevented.

Its report sets out a range of measures that could improve care.

These included giving all patients access to specialist nurses and ensuring they are part of teams of professionals that include specialist lung surgeons.

The coalition believes this is not the case for about a third of patients.

'Not good enough'

The report also said there needed to be better co-ordination between GPs and hospitals, including the ordering of quick diagnostic tests for patients with suspected lung cancer.

And awareness about the disease needed to be increased among both patients and GPs - late recognition of symptoms is one of the key causes of late diagnosis which means the UK has low survival rates.

Lung cancer

  • Lung cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the world, according to the World Health Organisation
  • In the UK, it's the second most-frequently occurring cancer among men (after prostate cancer), accounting for one in seven new cases, and the third most-frequently diagnosed cancer in women (after breast and bowel cancer) accounting for about one in nine new cases
  • Numbers have dropped considerably in recent times, by about 16% in the last decade alone
  • The majority of cases are caused by the effects of smoking - and while people are living longer with lung cancer, unfortunately the majority of cases cannot be cured

Source: BBC Health

It believes if all 30 of its recommendations were implemented across the board it would help the UK match the best in Europe, which could lead to 3,500 lives being saved each year.

The coalition said lung cancer was still being unfairly stigmatised because of the perception it was self-induced by smoking - despite one in eight cases being among people who have never smoked

Dr Mick Peake, who helped to draw up the report, said the current standards were "simply not good enough" and urged the NHS to take action.

"The report identifies a gold-standard practice for lung cancer - the sort of care clinicians would wish for their own families."

Duleep Allirajah, head of policy at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: "For too long lung cancer has been one of the more overlooked cancers, despite being the UK's biggest cancer killer.

"Implementation of these recommendations, especially with regards to vital and often life saving surgery, would undoubtedly go a long way to improving survival, where we still trail behind Europe."

The report comes after the new health secretary has vowed to improve survival in areas such as cancer.

Jeremy Hunt has said matching the best standards in Europe was one of his priorities after replacing Andrew Lansley in September.

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