Quality of cancer care depends on income, location


Tomorrow is World Cancer Day, and the numbers are worrying.


Childhood cancer survival rates vary dramatically according to the wealth of nations.
Childhood cancer survival rates vary dramatically according to the wealth of nations.
Rosanne Olson/Getty Images

Poorer Australians with cancer have a 33% lower five-year survival rate than their wealthier counterparts, new data shows.

The data, released by the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) on the eve of World Cancer Day – February 4 – shows that although Australia has one of the best five-year survival rates in the world – 68% – startling discrepancies exist.

As well as the gap in prognosis between rich and poor, survival rates are significantly higher for city dwellers than for people living in the country. Indigenous Australians have higher incidence and mortality rates than average, and are also less likely to be hospitalised for cancer treatment.

The UICC estimates that 134,174 new cancer cases were diagnosed in Australia in 2017. About 45,750 people died from cancer in the same period.

On a global scale, the difference in cancer services available to the rich and the poor is appalling to contemplate. Of the estimated 8.8 million cancer deaths that occur every year, about 70% occur in low-to-medium income countries.

In the area of childhood cancers, high income countries have survival rates in the region of 80%, but that drops to only 20% in poor nations.

Across the world, 90% of people living in low to medium income countries do not have access to radiotherapy – a critical treatment recommended for 52% of cancer patients.

In the face of these figures, the UICC is using World Cancer day to urge governments and health authorities around the world to urgently prioritise greater access to detection, treatment and care services for all.

“Set in 2011, the World Health Organisation’s target to cut premature non-communicable disease deaths by 25% within 14 years is coming towards its half-way mark,” says UICC chief and CEO of Cancer Council Australia, Sanchia Aranda.

“We can meet the target, but more action than ever will be required. Inequality in access to prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care makes reducing premature deaths from cancer difficult. If we are committed to achieving this goal, we must act quickly and decisively to make access to cancer services more equal all around the world.”

  1. http://www.worldcancerday.org/exclusive-content-uicc-members
  2. http://www.worldcancerday.org/
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