Norway tops in cancer survival

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After months of crisis headlines about Norwegian hospitals comes some good news: Norwegian cancer patients have among the highest survival rates in the world. A new report from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) also ranks Norwegian cancer patients’ survival rates as the highest in Europe.

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Tuesday that no other country in the world has higher survival rates for patients diagnosed with cervical cancer. Those diagnosed with colon cancer and breast cancer also have “very good” chances of surviving. Fully 87 percent of patients with breast cancer in Norway survive, according to the OECD rankings.

New drugs, treatments, systems
“The new survival rate figures are really joyful,” Dr Sigbjørn Smeland, clinical leader at Oslo University Hospital (OUH), told NRK. He cited new and better cancer drugs, new treatment methods and, in the case of breast cancer, that all women over the age of 50 in Norway are offered heavily subsidized mammograms every other year.

“There’s also better organizing and we’re better at making earlier diagnoses,” Smeland told NRK.

Embattled Health Minister Anne-Grethe Strøm-Erichsen of the Labour Party was delighted by the new report from the Paris-based OECD, which has 37 member countries and a stated goal of providing “a forum in which governments can work together to share experiences and seek solutions to common problems.” The OECD is known for collecting, analyzing and comparing data from its member countries, to predict trends and “better understand what drives economic, social and environmental change.” Among the issues it follows are school systems, welfare and pension systems and public health care.

“I’m very proud of Norwegian cancer specialists who, through hard work and changes, have managed to boost Norway to the top ranks when it comes to cancer treatment,” Strøm-Erichsen told NRK. She’s been at the center of a storm over highly controversial hospital reorganization in Oslo, involving OUH where Smeland works.

Treatment needs continue
Strøm-Erichsen was poised to put forth new figures herself on how quickly Norwegian hospitals could launch cancer treatment for diagnosed cases during the first half of the year. Not everyone is pleased, complaining that frightening delays can still exist. Filmmaker Nina Grünfeld, though, just finished her round of radiation treatments and was glad to hear Norway’s survival rates are high.

She cautioned, however, that the end of radiation and chemotherapy treatments means the beginning of constant health monitoring, reconstructive surgeries and possible side-effects of the treatments themselves.

“The more who survive, the more who need treatment afterwards,” Grünfeld told NRK.

For more on OECD’s report, click here (external link).

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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