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Improving cancer outcomes through radiotherapy

BMJ 2000; 320 doi: (Published 22 January 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;320:198

Lack of UK radiotherapy resources prejudices cancer outcomes

  1. N G Burnet, university lecturer and consultant oncologist,
  2. R J Benson, specialist registrar in oncology,
  3. M V Williams, consultant oncologist,
  4. J H Peacock, radiobiologist
  1. Department of Oncology, Box 193, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge CB2 2QQ
  2. Radiotherapy Research Unit, Institute of Cancer Research, Sutton, Surrey SM2 5NG

    The British government has recently stated its aim of reducing deaths from cancer by a fifth over the next decade, with contributions from prevention, early diagnosis, and better treatments. British cancer cure rates are poorer than those of continental Europe and North America,1 and under—resourcing of radiotherapy services contributes to this.2 The government target could be accomplished by providing adequate radiotherapy facilities to deliver proved clinical treatments.

    After surgery, radiotherapy is the most effective curative treatment for cancer. Between 30% and 40% of the population will develop cancer, and at least half require radiotherapy at some time in their illness. Of patients having radiotherapy about 60% are treated with curative intent, often in combination with surgery and chemotherapy. Improving the effectiveness of radiotherapy would thus have a substantial impact on cancer cures in the United Kingdom.

    Provision of adequate radiotherapy facilities would improve the outcome of cancer treatment through three main mechanisms. The first is reduction of the waiting …

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