Large variation in stage cancer diagnoses

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Cancer treatment

There is great variation within the different cancer types at which stage the diagnosis is made. This is evident from figures from the Integrated Cancer Center of the Netherlands. Cancer of the esophagus, stomach, bile ducts and pancreas is usually discovered at an unfavorable stage.

Stage at diagnosis

Melanoma, thyroid cancer and uterine body cancer are detected at an early and therefore favorable stage in approximately 70 percent of cases. Cancer of the breast, cervix, prostate and kidney are discovered early in about half of the cases. For cancer of the esophagus, stomach, bile ducts and pancreas, this is only the case in approximately 10 percent of diagnoses.

Favorable development

The population screening has increased the proportion of earlier diagnoses for breast and colon cancer. For breast cancer, the share of diagnoses at a favorable stage increased from 28 percent in the late 1980s to 45 percent in 2022. For colon cancer, there was an increase from 19 percent to 25 percent. The share of a diagnosis at a favorable stage has also increased in melanoma and prostate cancer.

Internal organs

Whether cancer is diagnosed at a favorable stage depends mainly on the early occurrence of symptoms, such as a visible skin abnormality (skin cancer), a palpable lump (for example in the breast, thyroid or testicle) or blood loss. Population surveys also contribute to early detection. Cancer that arises in one of the internal organs often shows symptoms at a late stage, which are often general in nature. As a result, the disease is discovered at an unfavorable stage in a significant proportion of patients with cancer of the lung, stomach, esophagus, bile ducts, pancreas and ovary.

Cancer in the Netherlands

In 2023, 128,000 new patients were diagnosed with cancer, 2,000 more than in 2022. The increase compared to 2022 is as expected, based on population growth and the growing share of elderly people in the population. More than 900,000 people currently live with cancer in the Netherlands.

Source: Comprehensive Cancer Center Netherlands

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