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Cancer Survival Rate Dependent on Government Health Care Spending

Update Date: Sep 28, 2013 10:24 AM EDT

Cancer survival rates depend greatly on when the cancer was detected and diagnosed and the types of treatments available. In wealthier countries, screening tools and medical treatments tend to be more advanced, providing better care to their citizens. In a new report, researchers found that the more a nation spends on health care, the lower the cancer mortality rate becomes.

"We have observed that the more spent on health, the fewer the deaths after a cancer diagnosis and this is specially marked in breast cancer," Dr. Felipe Ades, MD said according to Medical Xpress. Ades is a medical oncologist at the Breast European Adjuvant Studies Team, which a clinical trials unit and data center located in Belgium. "We have also noticed that, despite all the initiatives to standardize public health policies, there is significant variation between health expenditure and cancer incidence and mortality in the 27 EU member states. This disparity is more glaring between the Western and Eastern European countries." 

For this report, the researchers used information provided from the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The team had data on countries' populations, cancer incidence and mortality rates as well as each nation's percentage of GDP (gross domestic product) that is spent on health care and health expenditure.

"The cut-off point between Eastern and Western European countries for health expenditure per person per year is around 2,600 US dollars. For instance, among the Western European countries Portugal has the lowest per capita expenditure at 2,690 dollars, while among the Eastern European countries, Slovenia has the highest per capita expenditure at 2,551 dollars. In the West, Luxembourg spent the most per person per year - 6,592 dollars - while in the East, Romania spent the least - 818 dollars," Ades said.

The researchers were not surprised to find that Western Europe, which spends more on health care had lower cancer mortality rates when compared to Eastern Europe. The researchers specifically found that in nations that spend less than $2,000 per capita in health care, nearly 60 percent of cancer patients died after their diagnoses. When the spending was increased to $2,500 to $3,000, the mortality rate dropped to 40 to 50 percent. When the costs increased to $4,000, particularly in France, Belgium and the Germany, the mortality rate fell below 40 percent.

The study suggests that government spending contributes a lot of survival rates. The report was presented at the 2013 European Cancer Congress. It was published in the Annals of Oncology.

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