Saturday 16 January 2021

Cancer survival rates continue to improve, but many women still ignore smear tests


Cancer survival rates in the Netherlands continue to improve according to new research by the Dutch cancer registration agency IKNL.

Two-thirds of the people diagnosed with cancer in 2013 were still alive five years later, a rise of two percentage points on the previous year. In 1989, when registration first started, just 42% of people diagnosed with cancer survived for five years or more.

Quicker and better diagnoses and more effective treatment have led to the improved survival rates, which have improved most significantly for breast, prostate, colon, kidney and cancer of the oesophagus. Survival rates have also risen for various types of blood cancer and cancer of the lymph nodes.

‘In 1989 the survival rate for cancer of the oesophagus was 8% but that has now risen to 23%,’ the researchers said. Lung cancer survival rates have also risen to around 21%. Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer related death in the Netherlands.

Meanwhile, the public health institute RIVM has told broadcaster NOS that it does not expect any improvement in the low take-up rate among women for smear tests, to check for early signs of cervical cancer.

According to the IKNL, 57.6% of women are now responding to a call up for tests – available to all women over the age of 30.

‘We do not know why there was the big drop to 58% in 2017,’ RIVM spokesman Jaan van Delden said. ‘Research shows that women are positive about the screening and  understand its importance. But a large proportion, primarily women aged 30 to 50, are not taking part.’

Self tests

Even the introduction of self testing has not helped reverse the decline, he said. Some 7% of women use a self test.

Some 200 women a year die of cervical cancer in the Netherlands, 800 women are diagnosed and 5,000 women are found to have early stages of the disease.

‘These figures would be double without the HPV vaccination for girls and early screening,’ Jacqueline van Dijk, chairwoman of the foundation Olijf, told NOS.

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