Lung cancer in Europe not prioritised despite poor survival rates

6 June 2008

The fragmented organisation and management of lung cancer diagnosis and care in many European countries are exacerbating already poor survival rates amongst patients with the disease. That is the conclusion of a new report from a group of leading Swedish researchers [1].

There is a great need to improve outcomes for patients with lung cancer. It is the most lethal form of cancer in Europe and causes between 15-28% of all cancer deaths. The burden lung cancer places on patients and their relatives is profound; it also places a significant economic burden on society.

"There is a real need to improve survival and outcomes for people with lung cancer" said Nils Wilking of the Karolinska Institutet and primary author of the report. "We hope that this report will help both stimulate and measure the success of developments and changes in lung cancer services and ultimately improve patient outcomes."

Key findings in the report include:

  • Late diagnosis of lung cancer is the most important factor explaining low survival rates. Almost 90% of people diagnosed with lung cancer die within 5 years.
  • Once diagnosed, the fragmented organization and management of lung cancer care in many countries are affecting timely access for patients to the most appropriate treatment.
  • The countries in which survival is best tend to have better provision of radiotherapy equipment, as well as better patient access to modern lung cancer drugs.
  • Lung cancer takes a relatively large share of overall healthcare spending for cancer ranging from 6.6% in Finland to a maximum of 9.9% in Hungary. Of this, hospital care uses a relatively large share of the direct costs, for example 93% in Germany; 86% in Sweden and 77% in the Netherlands. The amount spent on ambulatory — mainly outpatient care — is much smaller 4% 13% and 9% for the same countries respectively and drug costs account for the least amount of spend, for example 3%, 1% and 3.5% respectively.
  • Apart from improving access to modern cancer drugs it is important to introduce effective measures in prevention and early detection through well structured and administered cancer registries to track any changes that these and other organisational changes may make.

The report includes data from 20 countries: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. The selection of countries was based on available data sources as well as input from key opinion leaders within the selected countries.


1. Wilking, N, Hogberg D and Jönsson B. Benchmarking Report of Lung Cancer Care in selected European Countries. Karolinska Institutet, i3 Innovus, Stockholm School of Economics, 2008.
The report can be downloaded from:  

To top