Postcode lottery for breast cancer diagnosis in England
30 April 2013
Women in deprived areas of England are more likely to die from breast cancer due to delay in diagnosing the disease, according to a study by the University of Leicester, Public Health England and Cambridge University.
The study found that in a year 450 deaths could have been postponed beyond five years of diagnosis if they had been diagnosed as early as in the most affluent areas.
Dr Mark Rutherford, of the Department of Health Sciences at the University of Leicester, said: “A number of previous studies have shown poorer breast cancer survival for women who live in more deprived areas. Our study looks at how much of these differences are due to later stage disease at diagnosis for women who live in more deprived areas.
“Our research highlights that important and significant improvements could be made in terms of the number of early deaths that are observed for women living in more deprived areas by concentrating on making sure these women are diagnosed earlier.
“The findings suggest that policies aimed at reducing inequalities in stage at diagnosis between women with breast cancer are important to reduce inequalities in breast cancer survival.
“Being diagnosed with earlier stage disease has a significant impact on survival chances. It is clear from the results of the study that women from more deprived areas are more likely to be diagnosed with advanced stage disease. Removing these deprivation inequalities in stage at diagnosis can substantially reduce the number of deaths in the short-term for more deprived women.”
Dr Martine Bomb, head of early diagnosis at Cancer Research UK, said: “There is already good evidence that breast cancer survival is poorer among more deprived women, and this research helps us understand more about why that might be. More needs to be done to tackle this inequality to ensure everyone has the same chance of surviving breast cancer, no matter where they live.
"Cancer Research UK is working in partnership with others to help people get to know their bodies, know what signs to look out for that could be cancer and see their doctor sooner rather than later if they have noticed something out of the ordinary. Spotting breast cancer at an early stage makes a real difference to women’s chance of surviving the disease, and we must ensure this is a reality for all.”
MJ Rutherford et al. How much of the deprivation gap in cancer survival can be explained by variation in stage at diagnosis: An example from breast cancer in the East of England. DOI: 10.1002/ijc.28221