French cancer patients hit by scanner shortage

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Ann Törnkvist - [email protected]
French cancer patients hit by scanner shortage
France has a shortage of MRI scanners, meaning cancer patients are waiting too long. Photo: JGmarcelino/flickr

France is making progress in its battle to cut cancer rates, but a worrying shortage of MRI scanning machines in the country means patients are left waiting over a month for "urgent" scans, a new report revealed this week.


According to a new health survey published on Thursday the French healthcare system, which is held in high regard throughout the world, has 10.1 MRI scanners per million inhabitants.

That compares poorly with other countries in Western Europe where on average they have about double the number of scanners per capita. Germany and Denmark are leading the way, with about 30 machines per million residents.

The shortfall in France means French cancer patients are having to wait for vital scans, even when their cases are deemed urgent. The average waiting time is 30 days, despite the fact that a 2010 government initiative called "Plan Cancer" aimed to bring that wait down to only two weeks. 

The French Health Ministry presented its review on Thursday and lauded the progress that had been made in the struggle against cancer. Some 85 percent of recommendations made in the 2009-2013 "Plan Cancer" are being actively addressed and around 60 percent of the recommendations made in the report are already in place or will be by the end of 2013. 

Yet the MRI scan shortage was a real cause for concern, as was France's inability to tackle the longstanding issue of tobacco consumption that was leading to an elevated number of lung cancer cases compared to the rest of Europe.

One in four cancer deaths in the country are related to smoking, which affects the unemployed and women disproportionately and thus "contributes to inequalities", the report found.

Of those diagnosed with the disease around 12 percent of women and 13 percent of men suffered from lung cancer.

When it came to cancer in the lungs Hungary was the country with the most reported cases among men while Sweden had the lowest number, according to figures from the European Cancer Observatory.

With 42.2 cases of lung cancer per 100,000 inhabitants, France finds itself at the top of the European chart alongside the Benelux nations, Poland, Hungary, Serbia and Croatia, among others. Ireland and Portugal had among the lowest numbers.

In France the most prevalent cancer among women is breast cancer and among men it is prostate cancer. 



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