Teen cancer survival on the rise, but more work needed
The first national report detailing survival for teenagers and young adults
with cancer shows that survival rates climbed by around 11% over two decades.
The findings, published in the British Journal of Cancer today (Tuesday), looked
at survival across all cancers in people aged 13 to 24 between 1979 and 2001.
Previously, statistical information about cancers in people in this age group
has been limited, as patients were treated as either a child or adult. Before
now, the importance of classing young people as a separate group was not recognised.
It is now understood that the spectrum of cancers affecting young people is
different from children and adults and their physical, social and educational
needs are also unique.
This report, funded by Cancer Research UK, will serve as a baseline for monitoring
and guiding health policy geared towards developing specialised cancer care
for teenagers and young people.
Lead author, Professor Jillian Birch, director of Cancer Research UK's Paediatric
and Familial Cancer Research Group at The University of Manchester, said:
"We found that survival for teenagers and young people with cancer
improved overall from 63% between 1979 and 1984 to 74% 1996 and 2001, which
is great news. But more needs to be done to drive this figure even higher.
It's important that cancer services are tailored to suit teenagers and
young adults, as their needs differ from older adults and children –
clinically and psychologically. Research like this is needed to measure how
much of an impact this tailored treatment could have."
The researchers analysed five-year survival in more than 30,000 13 to 24 year
olds diagnosed with cancer in England between 1979 and 2001, and followed them
up to 2003.
The greatest increase in survival rates was seen for leukaemia, which increased
by 21% over the 23 years studied. But survival for brain tumours, bone cancers
and soft tissue sarcomas hasn't changed significantly since the mid-1980s.
Professor Birch added:
"Our research has also identified cancers where survival rates remain
poor, highlighting the need for continuing research in those areas to drive
Dr Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK, said:
"Research like this is vital if we are to measure the impact of
changes to the way teenagers with cancer are treated. Recruiting more young
people onto clinical trials – which has been a priority for childhood
cancer – will help this.
It's important that this group of patients receive the most appropriate
treatment, and Cancer Research UK will continue investing in research to work
towards this goal."