Cases of lung cancer in women increase by more than 50 per cent in last decade

The rate of lung cancer diagnosis amongst all patients has more than trebled since 2006. Picture by PA Photo/thinkstockphotos
John Monaghan

THE number of women diagnosed with lung cancer in Northern Ireland has increased by more than 50 per cent in the last decade.

New research from Queen's University examining the rates of lung cancer diagnosis shows that the increase in cases among women (55 per cent) between 2006 and 2014 was more than four times higher than among men (12 per cent).

Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death in women in Northern Ireland.

The overall number of lung cancer cases, with 1,226 people diagnosed in 2014, amongst both genders more than trebled in the eight year period.

There was a small rise, of three per cent, in the number of patients undergoing surgery - the most successful treatment for lung cancer sufferers - from 12 per cent 11 years ago, although not all patients are eligible for such treatment.

Dr Anna Gavin, Director of the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry at Queen's University, said: "Lung cancer is a devastating disease with poor overall survival and the number of lung cancer cases continues to increase in Northern Ireland.

"The surge in cases can be attributed to risk factors especially historic tobacco use but also the ageing population.

"The proportion of patients over 80 increased from 12 per cent in 2006 to 17 per cent in this study.

"Twice as many men than women had lung cancer in 1996 but fast-forward 20 years and a similar number of men and women are being diagnosed.

"This is due to more men giving up smoking while conversely, more women are taking up smoking, the major cause of lung cancer," Dr Henry added.

Although Northern Ireland was below the UK average for chemotherapy targets and specialist nurse assessment rates, it was above average in other areas including scans offered to patients and treatment rates.

The report, compiled in conjunction with the NI Cancer Network Lung Cancer Group, offers several recommendations for tackling the rising rates of diagnosis, including further investment in anti-smoking campaigns and increasing awareness of symptoms for early diagnosis.

Symptoms can include a persistent cough, a sudden change in a long-standing cough, unexplained weight loss, breathlessness and chest pain.

The latest figures come as the Assembly All-Party Group on Cancer called for an urgent new cancer strategy for Northern Ireland, with a 65 per cent increase in cancer cases predicted by 2035.

While all other parts of the UK and the Republic have updated, or are in the process of updating, their cancer strategies, the last plan for the north was unveiled almost a decade ago.

Chair of the Assembly group, Alliance South Belfast MLA Paula Bradshaw said: "We plan to write to the Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly in the absence of an Executive and minister to get an update.

"With new medication, technology and with an ageing population we need a strategy to reflect all of this if we want to see change for people in Northern Ireland."



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