The amount of people surviving a lung cancer diagnosis for at least one year is on the rise, according to a new report from the Royal College of Physicians (RCP). 

The National Lung Cancer Audit (NLCA) report 2016 shows a 7% increase in one-year survival rates for the disease since 2010, from 31% to 38%.

The report, commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP), also highlighted a significant increase in the number of advanced non-small cell lung cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, from 48% to 64%, alongside an improvement in the number of patients receiving surgery (16.8%).

In terms of diagnosis, pathological confirmation (diagnosing lung cancer from investigating cell samples) has also increased, rising from 69% to 72% since the RCP’s last report. The number of lung cancer cases where the subtype has remained undetermined has also fallen 11%.

The findings are the most comprehensive to date having used the National Cancer Registrations and Analysis Service (NCRAS) to analyse an additional 6,000 lung cancer cases from across the UK.

“It is very encouraging to note that overall many of our audit indicators have improved compared to the last report,” said Ian Woolhouse, NLCA senior clinical lead. “Highlights include the improvement in pathological sub-typing of lung cancer, the use of chemotherapy and surgery in non-small-cell lung cancer, and probably most importantly the improvement in one-year survival.”

The improvement in one-year survival is in line with previous five-year periods, reflecting ongoing improvements made in awareness efforts, diagnostic technology and treatments.

Despite the improvements however, lung cancer survival remains poor in comparison to other forms of the disease. Five-year survival remains around 10% and 10-year survival around 5%.

As a consequence, the report outlines guidelines for lung cancer care to continue to improve survival:

  • Pathological confirmations below 80% should be reviewed to ensure that best practice has been followed.
  • At least 90% of all patients should be seen by a lung cancer nurse specialist (LCNS) and 80% of patients should also have an LCNS present at the time of diagnosis (the report indicates that only 57% of patients were seen by an LCNS).
  • Multidisciplinary teams (MDTs) with anti-cancer treatment rates of below 60% should conduct detailed casenote reviews to identify why patients did not receive anti-cancer treatment.
  • MDTs with one-year survival rates of less than 38% should review their diagnostic and treatment pathways to ensure that all patients are diagnosed promptly and treated appropriately.

“There is still much work to do to ensure that all lung cancer patients receive a standard of care that is equal to the best in the country and we implore all lung cancer units to critically review their results and work with our quality improvement team to achieve this,” stated Woolhouse.