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Postcode lottery leads to avoidable deaths

Postcode lottery leads to avoidable deaths

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A substantial number of patients are needlessly dying of lung cancer due to local variations in care.

Results from the National Lung Cancer Audit (NLCA) published today show that the proportion of patients with early stage lung cancer that receive surgery varies between 33% and 63%.

While some patients may be offered alternative treatments such as radiotherapy, surgery represents the best chance of a cure for the disease.

The audit collected data on 39,203 patients in Great Britain representing all patients attending or admitted to hospital with lung cancer.

Overall measures of the standards of care have been sustained and in some areas have marginally improved compared to previous years.

Dr Mick Peake, Clinical Lead, National Lung Cancer Audit, said: “Over the ten years of [this] audit we have definitely seen improvements in the standards of care for lung cancer patients and these are now leading to improvements in survival.

 “However, it is clear that not every patient in every area of the country is receiving optimal care, so our job is not yet done.”

Areas of marginal improvement include the proportion of patients with small cell lung cancer receiving chemotherapy, which has seen an increase from 67.9% to 69.7%.

The proportion of patients with access to a lung cancer nurse specialist has also increased from 82.3% to 83.9%.

Dr Ian Woolhouse, co-clinical lead NLCA, said: “While there have been important improvements in a number of areas of lung cancer care, this annual report demonstrates that there is still some way to go to reduce variation in key treatments such as lung cancer surgery which is likely to have the biggest impact on survival.”

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