Greater numbers of lung cancer patients would survive longer, if they had surgery to remove the infection, new research claims.

Experts from the National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) and King's College, London, examined 77,349 patients diagnosed with lung cancer between 2004 and 2006, in England, and studied those who had surgery to treat their condition.

The data suggests that the area with the highest surgical rates also had the highest survival statistics. Researchers therefore estimated that over 5,400 lives could have been extended, if every area in the country operated on the same number of patients.

"For the majority of lung cancer patients, surgery is the only way to give them a chance of being cured, but England still lags behind the rest of the world when it comes to operating on these patients," said Mick Peake, the study's co-author, in a statement.

"There are many things that influence a surgeon's decision to operate on a patient such as other illnesses, age, general health and patients' own choice. But where possible all cancer patients who are generally fit enough, should be able to have surgery," Peake added.

The latest data shows that only 14 percent of lung cancer patients in England are operated on; the associated fact is that the country has lower surgery rates than most other European counterparts and the United States, who operate on approximately 20 to 30 percent.

On a whole, approximately 40,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer every year. Fewer than 10 percent survive the disease for five years.

"Decisions in treatment for cancer are now made by teams of clinicians with different specialties and skills (multi-disciplinary teams or MDTs) which have changed the feeling in the past that the risks of surgery were too great for patients. This study shows that increasing the proportion of patients who receive surgical treatment has the potential to save 35 lives from lung cancer-related death for every one extra person who may die from surgery," said David Taggart, the President of the Society of Cardiothoracic Surgery (SCTS).

The research was published in the European Journal of Cancer.