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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 December 2007, 16:42 GMT
Plan to improve cancer treatment
Prostate cancer cell
A plan to end the postcode lottery in cancer treatments and improve services to patients is set to be unveiled.

Health Secretary Alan Johnson and the government's cancer tsar Professor Mike Richards will set out the five-year strategy on Monday.

Part of the plan will include warning people they are at risk if they smoke, overeat or sunbathe too much.

The document will pledge that no patient anywhere in the country should wait more than 31 days for treatment.

Improved provision

The strategy document is also expected to outline ways to tackle the 'postcode lottery' on drug treatments, and delays between licensing and appraisal of new drugs by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice).

Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said improving radiotherapy provision will be a key part of plans to tackle the variation in cancer services across the country.

Speaking on BBC News 24, he said: "Depending on where you live in the country, the amount of radiotherapy capacity there is maybe such that you are having to wait a very long time for treatment.

"What this new announcement on Monday will do, it will mean significant investment in radiotherapy capacity so that across the country people are getting consistent rapid access to these treatments.

"What the Cancer Reform Strategy is doing is saying that for every treatment a patient needs, whether it's the first, second or third treatment, anywhere in the country, a patient shouldn't be waiting more than 31 days."

There are fears that people's chances of survival are reduced by delays in accessing treatment.

The fact is that half of all smokers eventually die from cancer, or other smoking-related illnesses
Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK

In England, there are 230,000 new cases of cancer each year. The disease causes a quarter of all deaths.

Cancer is the UK's most common cause of premature death and survival rates are poor compared to the US, Western Europe and Canada.

Smoking is the biggest cause of cancer, followed by obesity.

Mr Kumar said: "Smoking remains the single biggest preventable cause of cancer and the commitment to go further on tobacco regulation is critical.

"The fact is that half of all smokers eventually die from cancer, or other smoking-related illnesses. And a quarter of smokers die in middle age - between 35 and 69.

Swift implementation

"That's an incredibly high toll. Any new regulation that helps reduce this and helps more people give up smoking must be welcomed.

"But we need to ensure that the NHS has the extra money needed to meet these targets, particularly in radiotherapy where we know there are significant shortages at present."

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: "The Cancer Reform Strategy is an extremely welcome next step to ensure that cancer services continue to improve.

"However, there is still some way to go before everyone receives the best possible care no matter who they are or where they live.

"It's vital that each and every one of the important recommendations to be set out in the strategy are implemented swiftly and effectively - ensuring real benefits for patients and saving even more lives."

UK 'lagging' on cancer survival
21 Aug 07 |  Health


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