The standard of breast cancer care hugely varies across the country, with some women being issued a potentially life-saving diagnosis much quicker than others, according to a new report from the All Party Parliamentary Group.
The report has found that there are “stark variations” between the standard of care in different towns, which comes down to a “postcode lottery”, according to leading MPs within the group.
Patients are left to faced the “devastating impact” of the system’s failings, with the findings concluding that women in certain towns were over twice as likely to die from breast cancer aged under 75 than others.
It’s been found that there are “unacceptable differences” in care in the country due to screening and drug availability and staff shortages, meaning some patients will receive a diagnosis much earlier than others. And, of course, it’s well known that an early diagnosis means a higher chance of survival.
The report found that drugs with life-saving potential are not widely available across the UK, and that specialist nurses are also available in some areas, but not in others.
So where in the UK are the best places for breast cancer care and treatment?*
It’s been said that Rushcliffe in Nottingham is the best area for breast cancer care, with 88% of cancers discovered at stage 1 or 2.
Stage 1 or 2 means the cancer has been caught almost as early as possible, and treatment is likely to be much more effective.
However, Gloucestershire performed the worst, with just 62% of women diagnosed at stages 1 or 2. This means that 38% of women in the area are only diagnosed when their cancer reaches a more advanced stage.
The report also found that just 32% of women in Slough receieved early diagnosis, although the area only had 40% complete diagnosis records, so this may not be an accurate figure.
Chairs of the APPG group, MPs Thangam Debonnaire, Dr Philippa Whitford and Craig Tracey, issued a joint statement about the findings.
It read, ‘Our inquiry has uncovered a concerning postcode lottery in screening uptake, early diagnosis and access to breast cancer services across England.
‘This variation in NHS services can have a devastating impact on patients’ lives and must be addressed. We now urgently need to bring the worst performing areas in line with the best.’
Newark and Sherwood clinical commissioning group (CCG) saw the most women dying early as a result of poorer care, with 31.9 per 100,000 dying before the age of 75.
However, Tower Hamlets CCG in London saw better figures, with 13.3 per 100,000 dying from breast cancer.
*The report surveyed most areas of the UK – although not all had complete diagnosis records.