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Bernard Ribiero, Association of Surgeons
"The arbitrary two week rule... cannot be implemented without the resources"
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Wednesday, 24 May, 2000, 04:15 GMT 05:15 UK
Cancer surgeons shortage warning
The Royal College of Surgeons says the UK lags behind Europe and the USA in specialist cancer surgery
Survival rates 'dramatically improve' with surgery
A lack of specialist cancer surgeons may threaten efforts to improve treatment and survival rates from the disease, the profession has warned.

The Royal College of Surgeons has written to the government's "cancer tsar", Professor Mike Richards, raising concerns about the lack of attention given to the role of surgery in treating the disease.

David Rosin, chairman of the RCS's cancer committee, said that survival rates could dramatically improve when cancers were operated on.

But he warned that there was a dwindling number of cancer surgeons, leading to a lack of specialisation.

The vital place of cancer surgeons has been diminished due to lack of their numbers

David Rosin
Mr Rosin said the one-year survival rate for lung cancer following surgery was 67.5%, compared with a 37% rate for radiotherapy and 23.2% for chemotherapy.

UK trails Europe

The two-year survival rate is 49.6% after surgery, 16.6% after radiotherapy and just 6.5% following chemotherapy.

But the UK has a poor ratio for surgical specialists per head of the population when compared with Europe and the United States.

In his letter to Professor Richards, Mr Rosin said: "The Royal College of Surgeons in England are surprised and concerned at how little attention is given to the role of surgery in the management of cancer.

"The vital place of cancer surgeons has been diminished due to lack of their numbers, leading to lack of specialisation and poor representation on cancer committees.

"There is not a single surgeon on the Council of the Cancer Research Committee."

National cancer plan

He added: "If we are to improve the prognosis following the treatment of cancer, we need to ensure that there are surgical specialists in the treatment of cancer in numbers at least equal to those in Europe."

The Association of Surgeons is meeting in Cardiff on Wednesday to discuss the issue.

President of the association Mr Bernard Ribeiro told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The arbitrary two week rule to actually see patients and effect a diagnosis cannot be implemented without the resources to see it through.

"The principle is good. What we need is the resources."

A spokesman for the Department of Health said Professor Richards was in the process of devising a National Plan for Cancer which would be published in the autumn.

"The plan will ensure that we have enough appropriately skilled doctors, nurses and other key staff - this includes surgeons," he said.

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