Cancer survival rates for young people at an all-time high

Survival rates for adolescents and young adults (AYA) with cancer are at an all-time high, with 90% of young people diagnosed with cancer alive 5 years after diagnosis.

According to the latest Australian Institute for Health and Welfare cancer in adolescents and young adults in Australia report, which reviewed national cancer outcomes for people aged 15 to 24 years, the improvement in survival was most dramatic for blood cancers where 5-year survival had increased from 64% in the 1980s to 91% in the most recent reporting period.

NSW Health Minister Ryan Park said NSW’s cancer specialists, hospitals and community agencies are committed to supporting young people with cancer and helping them thrive as adults.

“NSW has some of the best cancer survival rates in the world and that simply wouldn’t be possible without the dedication and passion of our state’s health professionals and cancer researchers,” Mr Park said.

“To see so many young people survive cancer is incredibly encouraging, but work continues to achieve our vision of a time when no young person loses their life to this disease, and they can go on to live long productive lives not overshadowed by ongoing side effects or fear of another cancer diagnosis.”

NSW Chief Cancer Officer and CEO of Cancer Institute NSW Professor Tracey O’Brien says that while the overall survival increase has been dramatic there is still much to do to improve survival rates and address the long-term impacts experienced by these young people.

“On average in NSW, 1 adolescent or young adult will be told they have cancer every day. Hearing this at any age is devastating, but it is tougher when you are also dealing with heightened physical, emotional, social, educational and sexual changes,” Professor O’Brien said.

“Facing cancer treatment while also having to consider the impact their diagnosis and treatment could have on their future health, fertility and careers is challenging and heartbreaking.”

Between 1984 and the current reporting period, rates of colorectal cancer increased almost fourfold (9 to 33 cases per million) and for thyroid cancers almost threefold (13 to 35 cases per million). Survival for these cancers, which rank in the top 5 most common cancers seen in this age group, was high at 95% and 99% respectively.

While overall survival had improved dramatically, there were certain cancers where survival rates remain lower, such as brain, bone and soft tissue sarcomas.

“Overall, these results are very encouraging and give great hope, but we need to be mindful that people are not statistics, and progress made in treatment of some cancers like bone cancer is less positive, with a third of young people not surviving to 5 years after their diagnosis,” Professor O’Brien said.

“We will continue to focus on research and innovation to improve outcomes for all young people diagnosed with cancer.”

This article was originally published by the NSW Government.