Cancer survival rates double, but many suffer from long term effects

26th Aug 2016

Cancer is one of the most feared illnesses, accounting for many deaths each year, but thanks to improvements in our understanding of the disease, better screening programmes and medical treatments more people are now surviving cancer.

According to a report by Macmillan Cancer Support, cancer patients are twice as likely to live 10 years or more after diagnosis than forty years ago. Advances in diagnosis and treatment mean survival rates are now twice those of the early 1970s.

Around 170,000 people who were diagnosed with cancer in the 1970s and 1980s are alive today, according to the report. However,  the review also estimates that around a quarter of survivors will have long-term issues that require support – more than 42,000 patients in the UK who underwent surgery, radiation and chemotherapy in the 1970s and 1980s are now estimated to be suffering poor health or disability, the study found.

Whilst the improved survival rates are showing we are taking huge steps forward in treating cancer, they also show that cancer survivors are often left with long term health issues and should be given more help to manage health problems. Following surgery, or cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy, patients can experience an increased risk of poor health or disability, such as heart disease, osteoporosis, chronic fatigue and mental health issues.

Latest figures suggest that in total around 625,000 people in the UK are estimated to be facing poor health or disability after cancer treatment. The report highlights how the NHS needs to be prepared to meet the continuing needs of cancer patients – especially as the population ages. Forecasts suggest the number of people living with cancer is likely to grow from 2.5 million to 4 million by 2030, so the demand for treatment and follow up care will increase.

Most five common cancers in the UK are: Breast cancer, Lung cancer, Prostate cancer, Bowel cancer, Malignant melanoma

Rachel Kayani

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