Cancer Council NSW have released new data showing that, underpinned by research, 107,000 lives have been saved thanks to improvements in cancer prevention, early detection, screening and treatment over the past 20 years.
The study, which looked at the changes in cancer incidence and mortality in Australia between 1996-2015, found that, whilst there were 2% more cases, there were 20.6% fewer cancer deaths for Australians under 75 years of age than expected (based on rates in 1995).
Dr Eleonora Feletto, Senior Research Fellow, Cancer Council NSW said: “Australia has one of the highest cancer incidence rates in the world, so to see figures like this is really encouraging and something to celebrate in advance of World Cancer Day later this week. We can see that improvements in prevention, early detection and treatments played an integral role in the mortality reduction.
“We know that early detection is vital and that’s why established screening programs, such as the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, are one of the best ways to reduce cancer incidence rates in the Australian population. Tobacco control measures have also been instrumental and our previous work has shown they’ve saved an estimated 78,000 lives between 1956 and 2015.”
Heather Turner, bowel cancer survivor, is testament to the importance of screening programs in saving lives: “I was diagnosed with stage three bowel cancer after taking part in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. I had no major symptoms, so if it hadn’t been for the screening kit, which I received in the mail after my 50th birthday, I wouldn’t be here today.”
Despite these promising findings, Cancer Council warns that the impact of COVID-19 on screening services may impact rates in years to come, with disruptions to cancer diagnostic services at the peak of the 2020 lockdown.
“Medicare services for the diagnosis of breast cancer were down almost 40% at the peak of lockdown and we don’t yet know the impact that this may have had on future cancer rates.” Dr Feletto
Dr Feletto said: “We acknowledge there is still a lot more work to be done. The continued improvement in cancer prevention, early detection and treatment is vital, even more so with the impact of COVID-19, to ensure we continue to see further lives saved in the future.”
Source: Cancer Council NSW