smoking storyExperts are calling for a “drastic improvement” in lung cancer care in order to improve poor UK survival rates, says a new report published today. 

The UK Lung Cancer Coalition (UKLCC) wants governments, commissioners and the health care community to work together to raise five-year lung cancer survival rates to 25 per cent by 2025 across the UK. If achieved, from 2025 onwards this will result in at least 4,000 deaths prevented within five years of diagnosis each year - or over UK 11,000 deaths prevented per year overall.

“The highest five-year survival rate across the UK is currently predicted to be 16 per cent in patients diagnosed in 2013 in England,3 which is effectively double what it was in 2005 when the UKLCC was established,” says Professor Mick Peake, Clinical Lead for Early Diagnosis (National Cancer Analysis and Registration Service) and Chair of the UKLCC’s clinical advisory group. “However, we cannot be complacent. Lung cancer survival rates across the UK still lag severely behind our European counterparts and compare poorly with other major common cancer types.”  

The new report ’25 by 25: a ten-year strategy to improve lung cancer survival rates’, provides invaluable insights from both patients and health care professionals (HCPs) regarding the perceived barriers to five-year survival - and sets out 20 key recommendations on how to overcome them.

According to the report, nearly two-thirds (65%) of HCPs respondents in a UKLCC survey, believe early-stage diagnosis to be the most important factor for improving five-year survival rates - yet only 27 per cent of patients questioned said they visited their doctor because they recognised the signs and symptoms of lung cancer. In addition, 84 per cent of HCPs believe regional inequalities in health and care services have a significant impact on lung cancer survival rates across the UK. 

In order to deliver the UKLCC’s ‘25 by 25’ ambition, the report calls for a number of key actions, which include:
  • Governments across the UK to prioritise the improvement of lung cancer survival in any future plans or strategies relevant to the delivery of broader health, respiratory and/or cancer services
  • The establishment of a UK-wide taskforce to achieve ‘25 by 25’ in line with European best practice
  • The launch of pilot data programmes to assess and address the significant variation in five-year lung cancer survival across the UK
  • The introduction of UK-wide screening for all at-risk groups, informed by the results of the NELSON lung cancer screening study, which are due in 2017 
  • The 62-day waiting time target to start cancer treatment has been breached consistently for the past two years: The UKLCC is calling for a comprehensive audit to improve cancer waiting times.
“This report breathes new energy and enthusiasm into a lung cancer community which recognises that there is much more work to do. A lung cancer diagnosis should not be a death sentence. We hope that government policy makers and health service professionals in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can support the UKLCC’s ‘25 by 25’ ambition,” says Mr Richard Steyn, Chair of the UKLCC, and Consultant Thoracic Surgeon and Associate Medical Director, Surgery, Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust.

Lung cancer remains the UK’s biggest cancer killer; it kills over 35,000 people each year, which is more than breast, bowel, bladder and uterine cancer combined. The disease accounts for nearly a quarter of all UK cancer deaths (22%) and one in seven (13%) of all new UK cancer cases. It is reported that four people die from lung cancer in the UK every hour (someone every 15 minutes). More women die from lung cancer than breast cancer and despite, being labelled a ‘smoker’s disease’, one in eight people with lung cancer have never smoked.