Cancer survival rates in the Netherlands are ‘notably’ lower than in many of the surrounding countries, figures presented by medical magazine The Lancet and quoted by the Volkskrant show.
In particular, the chance of surviving stomach, kidney, prostate and lymph gland cancer for five years is 10% to 20% higher in other countries, the Volkskrant says.
The researchers looked at the survival rates of over 10 million European patients from 29 countries who were diagnosed with cancer between 2000 and 2007.
While the Netherlands scored slightly above the European average, the European figures have been dragged down by poor results in many eastern European countries. This, Rotterdam professor Carin Uyl-de Groot told the Volkskrant, makes it much fairer to make a comparison with the Netherlands’ neighbouring countries.
While there is little difference in survival rates for lung and bowel cancer, for example, there were some wide discrepancies. For example, the number of kidney cancer patients who were still alive after five years was 20% higher in Austria than in the Netherlands.
Uyl said it is tricky to interpret the figures. For instance, the Dutch may go to their doctor later. However, the occasional reluctance of Dutch doctors to treat patients does play a part, the paper quoted her as saying.
‘Doctors are sometimes less quick to use medicines,’ she said. ‘There are also gains to be made in operation methods and the use of radiation. We are behind Europe and we must tackle this together.’
However, Nijmegen University cancer expert Bart Kiemeney is less pessimistic and told the paper there have been many improvements in the Netherlands since 2007.
‘We do score worse for some forms of cancer, because some places have few patients to treat. Doctors did not build up experience, but that has now changed,’ he said, pointing to the decision to concentrate some treatments in a few hospitals.
In addition, the Netherlands, unlike many other countries, has an excellent registration system for deaths, he said. Not all countries do, and this may make the Dutch survival rates appear worse, he said.
Britain and Denmark both perform worse than the Netherlands, the Volkskrant said.
The Lancet report did say cancer survival rates are generally improving across Europe.