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National Cancer Survivors Day celebrates life and recognises the challenges of overcoming cancer

Posted: 07/06/2017

Sunday 4 June was the 30th annual National Cancer Survivors Day, which takes place all around the world on the first Sunday in June. Thousands gather across the globe to honour cancer survivors, inspire those who may have recently been diagnosed and to show that life after a cancer diagnosis can be fruitful and rewarding. It is also a day to draw attention to the ongoing challenges of cancer survivorship in order to promote more resources, dedicated research into finding a cure, and providing improved facilities for treatment.

Who is a cancer survivor?

A cancer survivor is someone living with or beyond cancer.

This could be anyone who:

  • has completed initial cancer management and has no apparent evidence of active disease;
  • is living with progressive disease and may be receiving cancer treatment but is not in the terminal phase of illness (last six months of life);
  • has had cancer in the past.

Why is this important?

Over 2 million people in the UK are currently living with or beyond cancer. The disease is becoming more prevalent; it will unfortunately impact the vast majority of people, whether directly or indirectly, at some point in their lives.

There have been some important developments, with the National Cancer Survivorship Initiative (NCIS) emerging in 2007 with the aim of tailoring care to meet the needs of survivors. The process was particularly aimed at achieving the following:

  • measurable improvements to the health, well-being and experience of cancer survivors and their families;
  • delivery of safe, quality, effective and value for money services;
  • improved communication and coordination of service delivery across multiple organisations and agencies;
  • principles of post treatment care and support that will inform future commissioning and the NHS workforce.

It is positive that steps have been taken to increase support for cancer survivors. However, 10 years on, diagnosis, treatment and management of cancer remains a significant problem. It is common knowledge that the earlier it can be detected, the greater the chance of avoiding cancer spreading, thus resulting in a higher likelihood of survival.

Delays in diagnosis

At present in the UK there are 1.9 million urgent GP referrals for suspected cancer per year but issues in identifying and treating cancer affect many patients. At best, this can result in prolonged pain and suffering and at worst, mistakes can be fatal.

A recent article published in the Daily Mail highlighted ongoing problems with delays in diagnosing cancer, estimating that around 100,000 patients are being put at risk. According to figures published by the NHS, almost 9,467 people suspected of having the disease in 2016-2017 had to wait over four weeks to see a specialist. This figure has risen rapidly since 2010-2011, when it was estimated that 3,731 people experienced delays of a similar length. 

This is completely at odds with Government aims which dictate that at least 93% of patients who are suspected of having cancer should be seen within 14 days. There is much discrepancy between NHS trusts as to how successful this is. For instance, in the past two years, only 76% of suspected cancer patients at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust were seen within two weeks.

It seems inevitable then, in the current climate, that many patients will be subject to delays in identifying, diagnosing and even treating cancer which reduce the rate of survival. Although some positive changes have been made, there must be further progress within the NHS in order for this situation to improve.

If you, a member of your family or a friend have concerns about the diagnosis or management of cancer, our specialist team may be able to assist.

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