New cancer diagnoses have increased, but so have survival rates: AIHW report

Amanda Lyons

23/08/2018 2:18:03 PM

The Cancer Compendium web report, released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, shows cancer trends over time and points towards its direction in the future.

While diagnoses of new cancers have increased, so have rates of cancer survivorship.
While diagnoses of new cancers have increased, so have rates of cancer survivorship.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) released its Cancer compendium: Information and trends by cancer type report this week, providing key data, information and trends in cancer.
The report is designed to paint a clear picture of how rates of diagnosis, death and survival of the disease have changed in Australia over time.
Cancer –all cancers combined – is the leading cause of total burden of disease and injury in Australia. However, it reached its peak as a cause of death in 1985, at 217 deaths per 100,000 population, and has been in decline ever since.
But according to the AIHW report, these trends have not arrested rates of new cancer diagnoses, which have risen from 47,443 in 1982 to 127,887 in 2014, and sit at an estimated 138,321 in 2018. The report  found that rates of prevalence are heavily influenced by age.
‘As people get older, the chances of getting cancer increase quite drastically,’ GP and Chair of the RACGP Cancer and Palliative Care Specific Interests network Associate Professor Joel Rhee told newsGP.
The AIHW has estimated that, in 2018, the risk of a person being diagnosed with cancer by their 85th birthday would be one in two, while the risk of dying from it would be one in five.
While these diagnosis and incidence rates seem alarming, a deeper dive into the figures reveals a more detailed story.
Compared to people in the population without cancer, people with cancer have a 69% chance of surviving five years, up from a 49% in 1985–89. And while the numbers of death from cancer have increased over time, from 17,035 in 1968 to 45,782 in 2016, the aged-standardised mortality rate has decreased, from 199 deaths per 100,000 in 1968 to 159 deaths per 100,000 persons in 2016. There is also a high survivorship population in Australia, comprising over a million people.
These rates indicate that cancer is increasingly likely to require management by GPs and other health professionals as a chronic rather than an acute disease.
‘Many of the patients I look after at the end of their life might have cancer, but they die with the cancer rather than from it,’ Associate Professor Rhee told newsGP earlier this year.
Survivorship also largely depends on the type of cancer with which a patient is diagnosed.
‘The majority of patients with lung cancer, for instance, appear to be diagnosed at a very late stage and have terrible five-year mortality,’ Associate Professor Rhee said. ‘That’s a concern and we realise more research needs to be done.
‘But, hopefully, we can get on top of cancer and manage it as a chronic disease, similar to HIV.’

AIHW Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Cancer

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