Cancer survival rates
Cancer survival is one of the key measures of the effectiveness of cancer services. Survival rates capture both how good the system is in detecting the disease and whether people have rapid access to effective treatment.
There is currently a huge variation in survival between cancer types, resulting from a range of patient-level, treatment and biological factors. Here we look at the five-year net survival estimates for adults (aged 15-99 years) in England diagnosed with one of the 25 most common cancers between 2011 and 2015, and followed up to 2016.
There are also differences in cancer survival rates between countries. This may result from differences in access, delays in diagnosis and treatment, but may also be due to population-level factors. We used data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to compare the UK's five-year survival rates for breast, cervical and colon cancer with 17 other countries.
Net survival is an estimate of the probability of survival from the cancer alone. It can be interpreted as the survival of cancer patients after taking into account the background mortality that the patients would have experienced if they had not had the cancer. Background mortality is derived from life tables of all-cause mortality rates in the general population. Net survival varies with age, and the age profile of cancer patients can vary with time and between geographical areas, so the estimates are age-standardised to facilitate comparison. Estimates are shown with their 95 per cent confidence intervals. For convenience, net survival is expressed as a percentage in the range 0–100 per cent.
For more detailed information on this data source please see the Office for National Statistics website.
Five-year net survival is the cumulative probability that cancer patients survive their cancer for at least 5 years, after controlling for the risks of death from other causes. Net survival is expressed as a percentage. Net survival for patients diagnosed during 2000-2004 is based on a cohort approach, since all patients had been followed up for at least 5 years by the end of 2014. For patients diagnosed during 2010-2014, the period approach is used, which allows estimation of five-year survival, though 5 years of follow-up are not available for all patients. Cancer survival estimates are age-standardised with the International Cancer Survival Standard (ICSS) weights.
For further information please see the OECD Definitions for Health Care Quality Indicators and Health at a Glance 2017.