The West

Better odds of beating cancer
Cancer survivor Paul Brown. Picture: Guy Magowan, The West Australian

Two-thirds of Australians who get cancer can expect to be alive at the all-important five-year mark after diagnosis, figures show.

An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report confirms what doctors have told many cancer patients in recent years - they have a good chance of beating the disease.

From 1982 to 2010, the five-year survival rate for cancer jumped from 47 per cent to 66 per cent, with several cancers having survival rates over 90 per cent.

Some of the biggest progress was in kidney cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and prostate cancer.

On the downside, the prognosis for some cancers, including in the larynx and brain, barely changed.

AIHW spokeswoman Anne Bech said cancers with the highest chance of survival included testicular, prostate, thyroid and melanoma, all having five-year survival rates of 90 per cent or more.

Pancreatic cancer and mesothelioma had the worst rates with five-year survivals less than 10 per cent.

Women generally had slightly higher survival rates across all cancers at 67 per cent compared with 65 per cent for men.

Younger people were more likely to beat cancer than older people and lower socioeconomic groups fared worse.

For the first time, the national figures show that once people survived five years after diagnosis - known as conditional survival - their prospects of living five more years were more than 90 per cent.

That has contributed to more than 775,000 Australians being alive today after surviving cancer, mostly of the breast, prostate and bowel and melanoma.

Television cameraman Paul Brown was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma seven years ago at age 34 after finding a lump in his neck while shaving.

The cancer, which affects lymphocyte cells that help the immune system, is one of those with improved survival odds with 70 per cent of male patients alive five years after diagnosis.

Mr Brown says he was shocked when told he had cancer and turned to the Cancer Council of WA for support.

"I wasn't unwell and there were no symptoms but the next minute I was being told I had the big C," he said. "I couldn't believe it."

After surgery to remove the tumour, he had a year of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Now 41, he has been clear of the cancer since then but says it always preys on his mind.

"Every now and then I get that nagging feeling but I'm right as rain so I guess you just have to get on with life," Mr Brown said.

The West Australian

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