UCL News


Letter: Quality of cancer surgery

27 August 2007

Sir - The Euro-care cancer survival data and their interpretation (report, August 21) are likely to generate concern.

If one assumes that the cancer-registry data from all EU countries are as robust and as accurate as our own, and that the stages of tumours are comparable, which is debatable, then the only rational explanation for the discrepancy relates either to a delay in diagnosis or to inadequate treatment.

There has been a significant speeding up of diagnosis in Britain in recent years, but delay remains a problem primarily due to a shortage of appropriate scanning facilities.

With regard to the common malignancies (colorectal, lung, breast and prostate), surgical excision is still the most important therapeutic modality.

As president of the European Society of Surgical Oncology, I am familiar with surgical outcome and quality assurance data from many European countries and would like to categorically assure your readers that the required expertise in adequately excising these malignancies is comparable with that in other Western countries.

Individual patients are discussed in multidisciplinary meetings so that optimum additional treatment such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy is provided based on evidence acquired from clinical trials, many of which are European-based.

I am confident that patients in Britain with these frequently occurring malignancies should not be concerned about the quality of cancer surgery here compared with other European countries. Certainly, surgical "oncotourism" is not necessary.

Professor Irving Taylor (UCL Surgery), 'The Daily Telegraph'