22 Dec 2010

Cancer survival rates now higher - report

8:00 pm on 22 December 2010

Survival rates for cancer patients in New Zealand have improved over the past decade, a new Ministry of Health report says.

It says those diagnosed with cancer now have a 62% survival rate compared to those without cancer.

The report covers more than a decade until 2007. During this time, the overall survival rate went from 57% to 62%.

Radio New Zealand's health correspondent says cancer of the pancreas is hardest to survive, followed by lung cancer and cancer of the oesophagus.

The best chances are with testicular cancer, thyroid, melanoma, prostate and female breast cancer.

Less chance of survival for Maori

Men have slightly lower chances of surviving cancer than women and Maori have lower chances than non-Maori: only 43% of Maori will still be alive five years after they're diagnosed with cancer, compared to 62% of non-Maori.

The ministry's national clinical director, John Childs, says much of that gap can be attributed to higher Maori rates of lung cancer.

Dr Childs told Waatea News early diagnosis is a major factor in the chance of surviving cancer, and Maori are often reluctant to get checkups.

Overall, Dr Childs says, cancer is not the harsh diagnosis for many that it once was, and New Zealand's rates compare well internationally.