A gleam of hope for cancer patients as a major study has shown that more and more patients in England and Wales have been surviving the disease.
According to Daily Mail UK
The numbers living for at least ten years after diagnosis – when they are counted as having beaten cancer – has doubled since the 1970s. Experts say the results are so promising that within the next 20 years, more than three quarters of cancer patients could be living free of the disease. They credit earlier diagnosis as well as advances in treatments which both eliminate tumours and prevent them returning.
Researchers looked at the records of 7.2million cancer patients in the UK between 1972 and 2011 and found that those diagnosed today have a 50 per cent chance of surviving for ten years, compared to the early 1970s when just a quarter of patients could expect to live that long.
However, the survival chances vary hugely between different types of cancer. While 78 per cent of women with breast cancer can expect to live for a decade, only 1 per cent of those with pancreatic cancer and 5 per cent of lung cancer patients will survive this long.
Researchers are now focusing their efforts on finding new drugs for these difficult-to-treat forms of the disease, which also include brain tumours and oesophageal cancer.
Around 331,000 Britons are diagnosed with cancer every year in Britain. Based on this figure, 165,500 can expect to live at least ten years.
Professor Michel Coleman, head of charity Cancer Research UK’s cancer survival group at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, whose team produced the survival figures, said that once a patient has survived for ten years, they theoretically have no more chance of dying from cancer than anyone else.
He said: ‘As a whole, patients who have survived that long no longer have any different chances of surviving than the rest of the population. So in that sense it would represent a cure.’
Dr Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: ‘We know more about cancer now than we ever did before. But we wouldn’t want to celebrate the fact that only 50 per cent of patients are now surviving their cancer.
‘We now want to go from 50 per cent to 75 per cent in a 20-year period.’ Despite advances, survival rates in Britain are only on a par with the likes of Estonia and the Czech Republic, and are stubbornly lower than France, Spain and Scandinavia.
Researchers blame late diagnosis which means cancers are only picked up when they have spread and are untreatable.
Many patients put off going to see their GP despite the warning signs, while doctors may also miss symptoms, especially when they can be mistaken for other conditions.
Researchers do not yet know whether the Government is on course to meet its ambitious cancer strategy of saving an extra 5,000 lives a year by 2016.