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Monday, November 30, 2009

10,000 Unnecessary Cancer Deaths (in Britain)

Another day, another exposé by a British newspaper about the failure of nationalized health care. This time, it's the left-wing The Guardian reflecting on how delays in cancer care cause 10,000 unnecessary deaths each year compared to other European countries:

Up to 10,000 people die needlessly of cancer every year because their condition is diagnosed too late, according to research by the government's director of cancer services. The figure is twice the previous estimate for preventable deaths....

Britain is poor by international standards at diagnosing cancer. [Prof. Mike] Richards's findings will add urgency to the NHS's efforts to improve early diagnosis....

Richards found that "late diagnosis was almost certainly a major contributor to poor survival in England for all three cancers", but also identified low rates of surgical intervention being received by cancer patients as another key reason for poor survival rates.

Research by academics at Durham University led by Prof Greg Rubin has identified five types of delay in NHS cancer care: "patient delay", "doctor delay", "delay in primary care [at GPs' surgeries]", "system delay" and "delay in secondary care [at hospitals]"....

Since Britain's population is less than one-fifth that of the U.S., the equivalent number of unnecessary deaths in the U.S. would exceed 50,000. The U.S. has cancer survival rates which exceed [see note below - link problem] even the better European countries, so that number may be higher.

Keep that in mind the next time you hear Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) and others throw around fictitious numbers about how many people die in the U.S. from lack of insurance. And this week as Harry Reid and the Democrats tout how Reid's plan will save families in the "non-group" market $500 on private insurance.

Still nothing to see here, move along.

Update: Michelle Malkin has a good post on the phony and baseless emotionalism used by supporters of Obamacare, who ignore the pain and suffering caused by de facto rationing under government-run healthcare.

Note: For some reason, the link to Medscape has started pulling up a log-in screen -- subscription is free -- so here is the money quote from the article, which is titled "Cancer Survival Rates Improving Across Europe, But Still Lagging Behind United States":

"New reports from EUROCARE suggest that cancer care in Europe is improving and that the gaps between countries are narrowing. However, comparisons with US statistics suggest that cancer survival in Europe is still lagging behind the United States. The reports are published online August 21 in Lancet Oncology and scheduled for the September issue .... Survival was significantly higher in the United States for all solid tumors, except testicular, stomach, and soft-tissue cancer, the authors report. The greatest differences were seen in the major cancer sites: colon and rectum (56.2% in Europe vs 65.5% in the United States), breast (79.0% vs 90.1%), and prostate cancer (77.5% vs 99.3%), and this "probably represents differences in the timeliness of diagnosis," they comment. That in turn stems from the more intensive screening for cancer carried out in the United States, where a reported 70% of women aged 50 to 70 years have undergone a mammogram in the past 2 years, one-third of people have had sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy in the past 5 years, and more than 80% of men aged 65 years or more have had a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. In fact, it is this PSA testing that probably accounts for the very high survival from prostate cancer seen in the United States, the authors comment."

Related Posts:
Nothing Wrong With Nationalized Health Care, Move Along
Grayson Death Number is Fiction
Are Our Liberties Worth Only $200-$500?

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  1. I don't know if they died needlessly. By dying, they did save Britain money. And, after all, isn't saving money what national health care all about?

  2. The day before Thanksgiving my father refused the open heart surgery that he needs to save his life. This is a difficult time but I, and my family, understand and respect the decision that my father has made. While I accept his decision I would not accept the same decision were it made by a government panel.

    In Great Britain a dollar value is put on human life. Their system leaves them with little choice. Soon, it will be the same here.

    I just wish that everyone who supports a government takeover of our health care system, would ask themselves if it were their father who would they want to make the end of life decision. I can't help but believe that if more people would internalize and personalize the debate that few would find themselves supporting government health care.

  3. Your article is rather misleading. Undoubtably, there can be errors and delay in diagnosis on the clinical side. However, it is not the whole story. There is a reluctance among British people to go to their GP when they begin to develop symptoms (especially men). This delay can mean the difference between life and death. I encountered this on a personal basis when I was admitted to hospital for an operation to remove a bladder tumour-which on analysis was shown to be cancerous. While conversing with other patients. It became apparent that many of them had waited months or even years before seeking medical help. Their failure to seek medical help was partly because they were afraid of the diagnosis, or because 'real men don't go to the doctor'.

    The NHS is not perfect by any means, but I have been impressed with the excellent care that I received for my condition. I'm a member of a bladder cancer support site, and there is no shortage of medical horror stories from its mainly US based members.

    Carol, I have conversed with Americans whose insurance company quite clearly put a dollar value on their medical needs.

    On a more personal note. I'm sorry about your Dad. Take care.

  4. Thank you Brian for your kind words.

    Unfortunately, "it can't happen to me" syndrome is all too prevalent wherever we are. I've put off treatment myself and don't deserve to be as lucky as I have been. That alone doesn't explain the difference between the US and countries with government health care.

    I am glad you are doing well and will remember your kind words, but I will also hold to my belief that individual care should be an individual choice and not one made by a government panel.

  5. Well said Carol. Individual care must be an individual choice and not the choice of the government panel. I think the national health care system must be reformed. I really feel sorry about your father.
    Thanks for sharing your story here.


    Quoted from and Linked to at:

  7. I'm not sure the prostate statistic is a good one to quote. Americans are screened much more extensively for prostate cancer, and many more cases are therefore diagnosed. Some of these men will be incorrectly diagnosed (i.e. they don't have prostate cancer). Unsurprisingly they won't die of the disease they don't have. Many more will live with a diagnosis of a disease that won't kill them because they'll die of something else first - this is surprisingly common, to the extent that NICE is investigating whether routine testing is worthwhile for any age group (as opposed to particular risk groups, for example).

    Put together and what happens is that lots of men in the US and UK die while they have prostate cancer, but in the US many more of them knew they had it. That makes US survivability rates much higher, but doesn't necessarily indicate any actual benefit.