Cancer survival rates in Scotland have improved by 2% according to Public Health Scotland (PHS) analysis.
A total of 138,150 adults were diagnosed with cancer between 2013-17, 68,360 men and 69,790 women.
During those five years, more than two thirds of men (67%) and women (71%) survived for at least one year, while 43% of men and more than half of women (51%) lived for at least another five years.
Survival rates for all but non-melanoma skin cancers increased by 2% for both men and women compared to the one and five-year mortality rates for the previous five years.
The study, which takes account of changes in the population’s age and background mortality figures, found particular improvements to the life chances of lung cancer patients.
The most recent estimates were that 36.7% of men and 44.9% of women would survive after a lung cancer diagnosis for at least another year, with corresponding five-year estimates of 12.5% and 18.6% respectively.
This represents an absolute increase of 2.3 and 5.1 percentage points among men and women respectively since 2008-12, according to PHS.
Scotland’s Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “It’s particularly positive to see improvements in five-year survival for Scotland’s most common cancer – lung – in both men and women.
“Similarly, five-year survival rates have clearly improved for men with kidney cancer and women diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
“Reasons for improved cancer survival include earlier diagnosis and an increase in emerging effective treatments.”
Commenting on concerns about the impact of Covid-19 of NHS Scotland’s screening and treatment programmes, she added: “The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in significant changes to service delivery, as well as delays in some diagnostic processes, and alterations to treatment plans and patient support, but the majority of cancer treatments have continued.
“Diagnosing and treating cancer has been and will remain a key clinical priority through the current Covid-19 pandemic but early detection is key. Anyone invited to take part in screening shouldn’t ignore their invite.
“If anyone – especially those aged over 40 – is worried about possible cancer symptoms, they should contact their GP practice.
“Survival in some cancers, including lung, pancreatic, liver, brain, oesophageal and stomach has improved at overall far slower rates than others and therefore require additional action; set out in our recently published Cancer Recovery Plan, which includes 68 actions and £114.5 million of investment to continue improving detection and survival rates.”
Head of policy for Macmillan in Scotland Kate Seymour said: “It’s good news cancer survival is improving in Scotland, thanks to years of work by NHS staff, the government and charities across the country.
“However these figures are also a stark reminder of the hard-won progress we stand to lose as a result of Covid.
“We know the NHS is under extreme pressure and staff are doing everything they can to keep cancer tests and treatment going where possible.
“Where there has been disruption it’s essential people with cancer are given full explanations of the reasons behind any delays to their tests and treatment and have the opportunity to discuss worries with their cancer care team.
“Macmillan also has a team of highly experienced cancer nurses on our support line who can help answer questions or provide emotional support to anyone with cancer, their friends and family.”
She added: “It’s extremely concerning to see those living in the most deprived parts of Scotland are much less likely to survive cancer than those from the least deprived areas.
“We must do everything possible to ensure that the disruption to the health care system does not disproportionally affect those in deprived communities and lead to even wider gaps in future.”
Kirsty Slack, Cancer Research UK’s public affairs manager in Scotland, added: “It’s good news to see that a growing proportion of people in Scotland are surviving their cancer.
“Research is at the heart of that progress; this has led to improvements in treatment and diagnosis.
“However, much remains to be done, if cancer survival in Scotland is to match that in the best-performing countries in Europe.
“What these figures don’t tell us is the worrying impact that Covid-19 may have on cancer survival.
“We’re concerned that the current backlog in testing and diagnosing cancer will lead to the disease being picked up later when it’s more difficult to treat.
“Protecting cancer services now and in the future will be essential to ensuring more patients survive the disease.
“We know NHS staff in cancer services are working tirelessly to care for patients during these challenging months.
“The Scottish Government must relieve the pressure by investing in staff and kit at the earliest opportunity to help ensure cancer services get back on track.”
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