Despite a history of increasingly positive outcomes for many types of cancer in Australia, brain and other central nervous system cancers buck the trend, with no improvement in survival rates, according to a report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
The report, Brain and other central nervous system cancers, estimates that approximately 2,100 new cases of brain and other central nervous system cancers will be diagnosed in Australia in 2017 and 1,500 people will die from these cancers—equating to 6 diagnoses and 4 deaths daily.
An AIHW report released earlier this year revealed that survival rates for all cancers combined are higher than ever, but this is not the case for brain and other central nervous system cancers.
In the period from 2009 to 2013, people diagnosed with brain and other central nervous system cancers had a 25% chance of surviving 5 years compared to their counterparts in the general population, while 5-year survival was 68% for all cancers combined.
‘And while 5-year survival rates for all cancers improved 20 percentage points over the last 30 years, there have been no clear improvements for brain and other central nervous system cancers,’ said AIHW spokesperson Dr Lynelle Moon.
Today’s report also measures the impact of brain and other central nervous system cancers in terms of their health impact, or ‘burden’.
This measurement relates to the number of years of healthy life lost through living with an illness or injury (the non-fatal burden) and the number of years of life lost through dying prematurely from an illness or injury (the fatal burden).
Using data from 2011, the report reveals that the health burden of brain and other central nervous system cancers is significant, despite being relatively rare (representing just 1.5% of all cancers diagnosed).
‘Brain and other central nervous system cancers are the 17th on the list of most commonly diagnosed cancers, but are 6th when it comes to the causes of cancer burden,’ Dr Moon said.
‘And sadly, 96% of that burden is due to dying prematurely as a result of these cancers’.
Among children, this group of cancers is the second most common type to be diagnosed, and is the leading cause of cancer burden, with an even higher proportion attributed to early death (98%).
Professor Sanchia Aranda, CEO, Cancer Council Australia, called for more research. “Today’s report shows that we aren’t seeing the same improvements in brain cancer survival as we have witnessed across other cancer types,” said Professor Aranda.
“Only 25 percent of people diagnosed with brain cancer survive at least five years, compared to 68 percent across all cancer types. We have seen no improvement in brain cancer survival rates over the last 30 years – demonstrating the stark inequalities in cancer outcomes between different cancer types.
“It also shows that although brain cancer more commonly occurs in adults over 65, brain cancer is also the second most common type of cancer in children. We need more research to better understand brain cancer and how we can effectively treat it so that we can make better advances in survival.”
An AIHW report from earlier this year shows that cancer is the disease group with the most significant impact on our health, costing us more years of healthy life than any other.