New light on cancer cases

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cancer figuersAUSTRALIA - More than half of all breast cancers are diagnosed before the tumour has spread beyond the breast tissue, compared with only 30 per cent of bowel cancers, NSW statistics show.

They highlight the growing importance of early detection as the number of new cancer cases increases.

The figures from 1995 to 2004, published yesterday by the Cancer Institute NSW, demonstrate a wide variation in the degree of spread between different forms of cancer, which in turn affects survival rates.

Ovarian tumours, which have no specific symptoms in their early stage, have spread to bones or other organs by the time they are diagnosed in more than 50 per cent of new cases, while only 18 per cent are fully contained within the ovary.

Lung cancer is also more likely to be diagnosed after it has spread to distant sites. The reverse is true for cervical cancer, of which 48 per cent of cases are diagnosed while the disease is still confined to the cervix, while only 6 per cent are at the advanced stage. For the remainder of cases, the spread was beyond the original site of the cancer but still confined in the same region of the body, or it was unknown.

NSW Chief Cancer Officer Jim Bishop said: "Cancer detected early has tremendous survival rates. Screening and early detection works, and we want more of it."

Professor Bishop said bowel cancer deaths - one-third of patients die within five years of diagnosis - could be reduced substantially if the disease was diagnosed earlier. "The survival rate for colorectal cancer is well behind breast cancer," he said. "There's quite a lot of catch-up to be done … compared to breast cancer" - in which only 12 per cent of women do not reach the five-year mark.

The recent introduction of a national screening program for bowel cancer, in which people aged 55 and 65 receive a kit to take a stool sample that could be returned for testing through the mail, would help bring the death rate down, Professor Bishop said.

There were 34,000 new cases of cancer diagnosed in NSW in 2004 compared with 32,000 the previous year - a rise that was attributable mainly to the ageing of the population, said Frank Sartor, the Minister Assisting the Minister for Health (Cancer). Almost one-third of all diagnoses were in people aged 75 or older.

Men were 50 per cent more likely than women to develop cancer, and 60 per cent more likely to die as a result.

Men were particularly overrepresented in cancers of the bladder, liver, stomach, throat, head and neck.

source - smh 

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