Women in the UK have a lower breast cancer survival rate than in other comparable countries according to a new study, because of poor treatment for late-stage and older patients.
Researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine looked at more than 250,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer between 2000 and 2007, from the UK, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
Writing in the British Journal of Cancer, they found that for all stages of breast cancer, three year survival rate was 87%-89% in the UK and Denmark. In the other four countries, it was 91%-94%.
The International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership, who carried out the study, wanted to find out whether the international differences in survival were due to delays in diagnosis.
But the research showed that a similar proportion of women in the UK were diagnosed in the early stages of breast cancers as the majority of other countries.
And the one year survival rate for women with early stage breast cancer in the UK was close to 100%, alongside the other five countries.
Instead, the research suggests that late stage breast cancer patients in the UK are not receiving the same high standards of treatment as in other parts of the world.
The study found that only 28% of women with advanced cancer survived for three years, compared with 42% in Sweden. Similarly, the one year survival rate for advanced breast cancer was just 53% in the UK, compared with 67% in Sweden.
Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK's director of early diagnosis, said: "We know that UK women diagnosed with breast cancer are not routinely given CT scans to check if the disease has spread, which could mean we aren't always accurately staging more advanced disease.
“But we also need to investigate the possibility that fewer women with later stage breast cancer in the UK receive the best treatment for their circumstances."
The researchers also found that older breast cancer patients in the UK may also be missing out on aggressive treatment. The three year survival rate for women aged 70 or older was 79% in the UK, compared with 91% in Sweden.
Dr Sarah Walters, lead author from the Cancer Research UK Cancer Survival Group at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said:
"In the UK, we should now investigate whether the treatment of women with later-stage breast cancer meets international standards. There is particular concern that this is not the case, especially for older women."
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