Published: 00:01, 15 August 2014
Parts of Kent have some of the worst cancer survival rates in England, according to a report released today by a leading cancer charity.
The research, published by Macmillan Cancer Support, reveals nearly 40% of people living in Medway, Swale and Thanet die within 12 months of being diagnosed with cancer.
Health chiefs admitted more could be done and blamed lifestyle - choices such as poor diet, smoking and drinking - for increasing people's cancer risk.
In Thanet and Swale, 38% of people diagnosed with cancer die within a year. In Medway, the figure is 37%.
This is much higher than the best performing areas in England where 24% of cancer patients die within 12 months of diagnosis.
Macmillan branded the high death rates "unacceptable" and blamed a failure to diagnose and treat patients quickly enough.
Carol Fenton, Macmillan's manager for the south east, said: "Your chances of surviving cancer should not be affected simply because of where you live."
Cancer is the leading cause of premature for both men and women in Medway, accounting for almost half of deaths in women and a third of deaths in men.
The government's target states 85% of cancer patients should be treated within 62 days of being referred by their GP.
Medway Foundation Trust said Medway Hospital has met its cancer treatment target for the last year.
But according to figures released by NHS England, East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust, which is responsible for the QEQM Hospital in Margate, missed the target seeing only 80.2% of patients within 62 days.
This week the trust was put into special measures following a damming report by the care Quality Commission.
A spokesman for the trust said it was working with other Kent healthcare organisations on a joint action plan for cancer that aims to improve diagnosis, treatment and recovery.
In a statement East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust said: "This is an important issue for the whole health economy and we are working closely with Macmillan who has offered to support specific targeted projects."
According to figures published by the Public Health Observatory, Thanet has the lowest life expectancy at birth in the county. Cancer rates, particularly among men, are among the highest.
NHS Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said cancer was a "priority action area".
Dr Peter Green, chief clinical officer for Medway CCG, said: "Macmillan Cancer Support is absolutely right to highlight variations in cancer survival as this clearly demonstrates that more can be done.
"Raising the profile of cancer and encouraging people to look out for symptoms and seek a diagnosis earlier is one of our top priorities.
"We're also encouraging and supporting people to live healthier lifestyles which helps people to improve their chances of not getting cancer and to live longer.
"People can decrease their risk of developing cancer by making healthier lifestyle choices."
Dr Tony Martin, NHS Thanet Clinical Commissioning Group chairman, said: "The cancer survival rates for Thanet are a real cry for the health inequality agenda.
"Cancer, heart disease and lung disease are all too high in Thanet, and when you look nationally at the areas we match with they are all areas with raised deprivation markers.
"Half of cancer deaths are lifestyle related and we are working through the local health and wellbeing board to try to raise aspirations, to enable people to make good lifestyle choices to ensure that people are aware of the choices they are making."
Dr Fiona Armstrong, NHS Swale Clinical Commissioning Group chairman, said: "There has been a low uptake of cancer screening in Swale. Less than half the women who needed to be screened for breast cancer did so last year. Early diagnosis is crucial for fighting cancer.
"People can also decrease their risk of developing cancer by making healthier lifestyle choices.
"If you are concerned about your symptoms and worried they may indicate cancer please see your GP."
Medway, Swale and Thanet have a higher percentage of smokers than the national average and obesity rates have risen over recent years in all three areas.
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