Fifty per cent of people diagnosed with cancer today will survive their disease for at least 10 years, according to landmark figures published by Cancer Research UK recently.
In the early 1970s just a quarter of people diagnosed with cancer survived 10 years. Cancer Research UK now sets out an ambitious new strategy to accelerate progress with the ambition that three-quarters (75%) of all cancer patients diagnosed in 20 years time will survive at least 10 years.
Women with breast cancer now have a 78% chance of surviving at least a decade, compared to only 40% 40 years ago.
Further reading: Breast cancer in older people by Dr Jordan Bowen
Professor Michel Coleman, head of Cancer Research UK’s Cancer Survival Group at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, whose team produced the survival figures, said: "These results come from detailed analysis of the survival of more than 7 million cancer patients diagnosed in England and Wales since the 1970s. They show just how far we've come in improving cancer survival, but they also shine a spotlight on areas where much more needs to be done.
"We want to see people with every type of cancer get the same chances of living a long life. This won’t be easy, but the progress reported here over the last 40 years shows we’re moving in the right direction."
Increased research into slow-progress forms of cancer
Ten-year survival for men with testicular cancer has jumped from 69 to 98% since the 1970s and, for people diagnosed with malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, 10-year survival has leapt from 46 to 89%.
However, just 1% of pancreatic cancer patients and 5% of lung cancer patients diagnosed today are expected to survive 10 years. Cancer Research UK has worked to increase research into these cancers but change has been slower than hoped – which is why a renewed focus is needed to make faster progress.
Survival from oesophageal cancer is still far too low at 12%, although 40 years ago it languished at around 4%. Brain tumour survival is also very low at just 13%, despite more than doubling in the last 40 years.
Saving more lives from all cancers, including those that are hard to treat, is the overriding focus of Cancer Research UK’s new strategy. The strategy details a raft of measures aimed at accelerating the speed of progress.
Ensuring cancer patients are diagnosed at the earliest possible stage of their disease, when treatment is more likely to be successful, is a key priority for the charity. And it plans to fund more scientists from different disciplines because collaboration is key to moving discoveries from the laboratory into the clinic to make sure patients will benefit sooner.
'No-one diagnosed too late'
Dr Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: "Every year, tens of thousands more people are surviving cancer a decade after diagnosis, showing that we’re gradually reversing the tide on this devastating disease. This is thanks to the work of our scientists and doctors, but none of it would be possible without the generosity of the British public, whose donations we rely on to fund all our research.
"But each year more and more people are diagnosed with cancer. We believe no one should be diagnosed too late for their life to be saved and effective treatments should be available to every patient, no matter what type of cancer they have.
"Achieving our ambition to see three-quarters of all cancer patients surviving their disease in the next 20 years will be challenging. But with the continued commitment of our scientists, doctors and nurses and the generous support of the British public, we hope to see our progress accelerate over the coming years to make this a reality."