Surgery to treat common lung cancers rises by nearly sixty per cent over five years

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Surgery to treat common lung cancers rises by nearly sixty per cent over five years

 Median average survival time up by 16 per cent

More than one in five patients with a group of common lung cancers(6) underwent surgery in 2012, compared to one in seven in 2008, a new audit shows.

Just over half (51.9 per cent) of the 40,200 lung cancer patients in England and Wales covered by the National Lung Cancer Audit were confirmed(7) as having “non small cell lung cancer”, for which surgery offers the best chance of a cure when caught early enough(8). Among these patients, 22 per cent had surgery as part of their treatment, compared to 14 per cent in 2008.

National Lung Cancer Audit: 2012 Patient Cohort published today highlights this increase as an important measure of the quality of care for lung cancer patients. Historically, the low number of patients undergoing surgery relative to other Western European healthcare systems has been considered as part of the explanation for poorer survival of lung cancer patients in the UK.

The audit also shows that median average time that lung cancer patients survive from the date that they are first seen in secondary care increased by 16 per cent over five years to 221 days, compared to 191 days in 2008. More than half (55 per cent) of patients survived for six months and 39 per cent survived for a year.

The report also highlights that although regional variation in lung cancer treatment and outcomes remains, these differences are narrowing on some measures. For instance, one measure looks at how many lung cancer patients receive any type of anti-cancer treatment(9) and examines the gap between the proportions receiving treatment in the upper and the lower quartile of trusts(5). In 2011 this gap stood at 10.7 percentage points, by 2012 it had narrowed to 8.5 points.

The audit is managed by the Health and Social Care Information Centre in partnership with the Royal College of Physicians and commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership as part of the National Clinical Audit and Patient Outcomes Programme (NCAPOP). The structure of the audit report has been adjusted this year with the aim of making its findings more accessible to a wider range of people, including patients.

Based on audit data for patients first seen in 2012, today’s report also shows that in England and Wales:

• The percentages of patients with confirmed non small cell lung cancer patients undergoing surgery varies between the 30 cancer networks in England and Wales(10), from 15 to 31 per cent.

• The median survival time varies between cancer networks from 179 to 280 days.

• There has been an increase in the proportion of patients seen by a Lung Cancer Nurse Specialist(11) to 82.3 per cent, compared to 79.5 per cent in 2011.

• The audit has collected data on an estimated 98 per cent of the expected number of new lung cancer cases.

Consultant in Respiratory Medicine Dr Mick Peake, audit clinical lead and clinical lead for the National Cancer Intelligence Network, said: “It is encouraging to see that hospital teams all over the country have responded to the findings and recommendations of previous National Lung Cancer Audits. The rise in the proportions of patients undergoing surgery means that lives are being saved and longer survival times are giving patients more precious time with family and friends.

“I’m pleased to say that extent to which care varies from region to region is reducing on some measures, however it is vital that all clinicians involved in lung cancer to look really carefully at what they are doing and learn best practice from others where they can.”

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