Leading cancer charity Macmillan Cancer Support has warned that cancer survival rates in the UK are at least a decade behind other European countries.

The analysis examined the most recently published survival rate figures for breast cancer, bowel cancer, stomach cancer and lung cancer. It found that cancer survival rates were significantly worse in the UK compared with other EU countries from a decade previously.

Britain’s poor record for early diagnosis of cancer is a key failing according to Macmillan Cancer Support, with many potential symptoms of cancer being dismissed by GPs or ignored by patients who don’t have a good enough understanding of associated cancer symptoms.

According to the data analysed by the charity, 81 per cent of UK women diagnosed with breast cancer between 2005 and 2009 were alive five years later, but Sweden, France and Italy achieved higher survival rates of between 83 and 84 per cent a decade earlier. Latest survival rates in these European countries are between 86 and 87 per cent.

Madeleine Pinschof, a senior clinical negligence solicitor based in Thompsons Solicitors’ Bristol office, said: “The analysis of the UK’s latest cancer survival rates is very worrying, especially given MacMillan’s concerns over the way patients are diagnosed with cancer, or even misdiagnosed with cancer.

“There can be no excuses. The government needs to invest to improve cancer services, and cancer survival rates in the UK. Staff need to receive the best possible training so that cancer symptoms can be identified, and therefore treated, at the earliest possible stage. Likewise, there needs to be sufficient investment to ensure that all patients are fully aware of different cancer symptoms so they can act upon them.

“Just because we have had a government obsessed with cuts does not mean we should shy away from demanding genuine improvement in diagnosis, prognosis and treatment so the people of the UK know that the risks of cancer and treatment of cancer here is as good as anywhere in Europe.”