Cancer survival improving

Data released today 26th October 2004 by the National Cancer Registry show that cancer survival is improving in Ireland for all of the major cancers. This new report was formally launched by Dr Elizabeth Keane, Chair, National Cancer Registry Board at a media event in the Shelbourne Hotel at 11.00 am.

The Registry compared five-year survival (the standard measure) from cancer for the period 1998-2000 with that for 1995-1997 and found that, for women, breast cancer survival improved from 73% to 78%, colorectal cancer survival from 51% to 55% and lung cancer survival from 10% to 11%. Survival also improved for men—colorectal cancer survival from 47% to 55% and prostate cancer from 64% to 76%, but lung cancer survival for men did not improve. Survival from many other cancers—lymphoma, leukaemia, melanoma, cancers of stomach and bladder—also showed improvement.

These improvements in survival need to be viewed in the context of Ireland’s ranking in Europe. For the period 1995-1997 survival in Ireland for most major cancers was below the European average. European data for the later period are not available.

One factor in this survival improvement may be higher levels of cancer treatment, as recorded by the Registry. For lung, breast, colorectal and prostate cancer, the percentage of patients having radiotherapy increased, and for the same cancers (with the exception of prostate cancer), the percentage having chemotherapy also increased.

Regardless of progress in treatment and survival, the report shows that the cancer burden in Ireland will continue to increase as the population ages. Although the underlying risk of cancer is not changing, the number of cancer cases is increasing by about 2% per year. The largest increase has been in prostate cancer, which is going up by 7% a year.

The Registry will also formally launch its new interactive website. This is a major step forward in making cancer data widely available to the public. With this new interface, users can select exactly what cancers they wish to examine, what area they want covered and what rates they want to see, in either HTML or CSV formats, or else in a graph in SVG format.

Previously, visitors to the website were only able to download a raw dataset, from which they extrapolated their own results. Now the Registry allows users select between age-specific and age-standardised rates such as the European and World Age Standardised Rates. It is envisaged that this will become the primary mechanism by which the Registry will provide data to the public.

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