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Concerns for 3800 undiagnosed Victorians living with cancer

Thursday 8 December, 2022

Five-year survival rate after diagnosis reaches 70%

COVID-19 may have all but disappeared from the headlines but the latest data shows a concerning trend.

In 2020, cancer diagnoses in Victoria declined by 7% – or about 2,420 fewer individual diagnoses. New data shows that in 2021, diagnoses declined again by 4.3%, or 1,485 fewer individual diagnoses. In total, it is estimated that there were over 3,800 fewer diagnoses than expected over 2020 and 2021.

The greatest decline was seen in bowel cancer, breast cancer, melanoma, blood cancers and prostate cancer diagnoses, with bowel and melanoma diagnoses seeing the least recovery in 2021. Together, these five cancers account for 76% of missed diagnoses in 2020 and 2021.

In good news, more Victorians than ever before are surviving a cancer diagnosis with the 5-year survival rate increasing by 22% over the past twenty years to reach 70% for the first time.

The data was published today by the Victorian Cancer Registry at Cancer Council Victoria, as part of its annual publication, Cancer in Victoria: 2021, which contains the world’s most up-to-date cancer incidence and mortality information.

Director of the Victorian Cancer Registry, Professor Sue Evans, said that although there was a modest recovery in missed diagnoses between 2020 to 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to impact the number of Victorians coming forward for cancer screening, testing and subsequent diagnoses.

“It is difficult to determine the pandemic’s true impact on cancer in Victoria, but at the end of 2021 there were more than 3,800 fewer cancer diagnoses than expected, meaning that these Victorians are most likely yet to present for diagnosis,” Prof. Evans said.

“In 2021, 36,974 Victorians were diagnosed with cancer, or one diagnosis every 14 minutes.

“The number of new diagnoses in 2021 was 5% higher than in 2020, but this was in part also impacted by population growth and the ageing Victorian population.”

The five most common cancers diagnosed in Victoria in 2021 were prostate (17%), breast (13%), bowel (10%), lung (9%), and melanoma (8%).

“Together, they account for 56% of all new cancers. These five cancers are responsible for three in four missed diagnoses,” Prof. Evans added.

This year’s Cancer in Victoria 2021 report includes a section on cancer prevalence for the first time.

“This report illustrates that there are more than 128,000 Victorians living with a cancer diagnosed in the past five years,” Prof. Evans said.

One in three males and one in four females over 80 years of age alive today have been diagnosed with cancer in the last 40 years.

Cancer Council Victoria CEO Mr Todd Harper AM said it is critical that Victorians visit their general practitioner if they are concerned about their health, do regular skin self-examinations to look for anything unusual, and participate in screening programs when invited to do so.

"31 Victorians die from cancer every day,” Mr Harper said.

“The leading causes of cancer death are cancers of the prostate, bowel, melanoma, lung, and breast. Together these cancers account for half of all cancer deaths in Victoria.

“We know that one third of cancers can be prevented through lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, eating a healthier diet, being more active, reducing alcohol consumption and using sun protection.

“Thanks to improvements in the way we detect and treat cancer, the five-year survival rate for Victorians diagnosed with cancer has increased 22% over the past 20-years and is now 71% across all cancers.

“Early detection and treatment are the most important tools in improving survival following a cancer diagnosis and we need to continue to focus on this, and our work in prevention, to reduce the impact of cancer for all Victorians,” Mr Harper said.

Cancer in Victoria: 2021 reveals:

  • Cancer diagnoses are projected to increase 43% over the next 15 years.
  • Cancer is the leading cause of disease burden in Victoria.
  • 36,974 Victorians were diagnosed with cancer in 2021.
  • An average of 101 Victorians are diagnosed every day, or one new cancer diagnosis every 14 minutes.
  • 31 Victorians die from cancer every day.
  • For every 100 females diagnosed with cancer, there are 121 males diagnosed.
  • An estimated 342,045 Victorians alive today have had a cancer diagnosis in the past 40 years.
  • The 5-year survival rate for Victorians diagnosed with cancer has increased by 22% over the past twenty years.

Each year, we produce a detailed statistical report on trends in cancer presentation, incidence, survival and mortality.

Discover the full report

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