Cancer Research UK has today published the results of research that confirms how far cancer survival rates have improved over the last 40 years. Half of all patients diagnosed with cancer can now expect to live for more than 10 years, compared with figures from 1971-2, when 50% of patients survived less than 12 months.
These vast improvements are attributed to the fruits of research and knowledge gained. Cancer Research UK is hoping that over the next 20 years further developments will lead to 75% of patients surviving for at least 10 years.
To move to that target, the charity is focusing its research on those cancers that still have low survival rates, particularly lung and pancreatic cancers, and on key areas including investment in personalised cancer treatment and reducing smoking rates. Survival rates of 10 years for lung cancer patients are only 5% and for those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are only 1%. Oesophogeal cancer and brain tumours are also low. These are in stark contrast to the dramatic improvements seen, for example, in breast cancer and testicular cancer cases. Screening programmes and public awareness campaigns play a key role in watching for signs and in early diagnosis that dramatically improves the prospects of successfully treating these diseases.
Survival rates in the UK, however, lag behind many other Western European countries. With some cancers, survival rates in the UK are lower at every stage of the disease, suggesting investigation and treatment in the UK still have some way to go. Early diagnosis is key and Penningtons Manches receives many enquiries and instructions from patients concerned that signs and symptoms have not been acted on at an earlier stage. UK investment in health services and technologies has been lower over the last 25 years than in comparable countries, particularly in scanning facilities, and this is also likely to have slowed further improvement.
Naomi Holland, an associate in Penningtons Manches' clinical negligence team, said: “We welcome this news of significant improvements in the 10-year survival rates of so many cancers. We hope that with continued investment in cancer research patients suffering with all types of cancers will benefit from improved survival rates. We continue to seek to emphasise and raise awareness of the fundamental importance of ensuring that cancers are diagnosed as early as possible. We encourage any patients who have concerns about unusual signs or symptoms to seek medical advice at the earliest opportunity and this study reinforces the benefit that early diagnosis can bring."