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UK 'lags behind Europe' on cancer
People in the UK are grossly misinformed about breast cancer survival and fail to realise how poor it is compared with other countries, according to a leading charity.
Only a quarter of those questioned in a nationwide survey knew that the UK's five-year survival rate is below the European average, said Breast Cancer Campaign.
The reality is the UK lags behind many of its neighbours including France, Italy, Germany and Spain and ranks alongside countries such as Slovenia and the Czech Republic.
Baroness Delyth Morgan, the charity's chief executive, said: "People will be surprised that the UK lags so far behind our European neighbours and will realise that much more must be done to improve survival rates. We need to have ambitions and targets for breast cancer survival that take us to being amongst the best in Europe - aiming for average is not good enough."
Latest statistics from Eurocare-5, the biggest research project studying cancer survival in Europe, show that around 79% of women with breast cancer in the UK can expect to live five years after diagnosis.
The figure - which incorporates the Republic of Ireland - puts the UK in 14th place in a list of 25 European nations.
In comparison, five-year breast cancer survival rates are 86.11% in France, 85.49% in Italy, 84.49% in the Netherlands, 83.60% in Germany, 83.29% in Portugal, and 82.76% in Spain.
The UK is only marginally ahead of Slovenia (78.71%), the Czech Republic (78%), and Croatia (76%).
England individually also has a relatively low survival rate of 79.29% while just 78.51% of Scottish women with breast cancer can expect to live five years.
A total of 2000 adults aged 18 and over took part in the ICM survey commissioned as part of Breast Cancer Campaign's awareness-raising "Spread the Word" campaign.
The findings showed that 16% of people think UK breast cancer survival rates are better than the European average, and only 26% realised they were worse.
Thirty-nine per cent expected the UK to have better survival rates than Slovenia, not to be on a par with the former Yugoslavian state.
Just 14% of survey participants correctly guessed that the UK's five-year survival rate was worse than Italy's. In fact, Italy has one of the best rates in Europe.
Lady Morgan added: "While we have made significant progress, we're in real danger of losing momentum before the job is done. The effect of breast cancer on those living with the disease cannot be underestimated and with 12,000 women still dying every year in the UK, we cannot afford to forget about the disease.
"Our campaign has been launched to ensure we continue the fight against breast cancer. We must show unrelenting momentum if more women are to outlive and overcome breast cancer in the future."
Each year around 50,000 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in the UK. Although the disease can be effectively treated if caught early, the prognosis is much bleaker for women whose cancer has spread.
Although Eurocare-5 combines data for the UK and Republic of Ireland, the five-year survival rate for women in the UK alone is also estimated to be around 79%.