The charity has issued a stark warning that this increase puts huge pressure on the NHS, which will have difficulty coping unless urgent action is taken by all political parties.
Worryingly, around one in four (25%) people in the UK already face poor health or disability after treatment for cancer. This means they may still be reliant on health services after they have been given the all-clear and as more people are diagnosed the charity warns this will only get worse.
The dramatic increase in people living with cancer is largely due to improvements in survival and detection, and a growing and ageing population, with the number of over-65s living with cancer increasing by almost a quarter (23%) in just five years. Of the 2.5 million people currently living with cancer, 1.6 million were diagnosed five or more years ago. However, growing evidence shows that many cancer patients do not return to full health after gruelling treatments and many suffer from serious side effects of the disease.
The number of men with prostate cancer has seen the biggest rise of 27% in the last five years, while many of these will survive in good health, a large proportion will face longer term issues. Research shows that men with prostate cancer who survive at least five years after diagnosis have a 60% increased risk of ongoing urinary problems such as incontinence. The number of women with breast cancer has also risen by 21% in the last five years and there are now also 18% more people living with colorectal cancer.
Lynda Thomas, Chief Executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “While it is great news that more people are surviving cancer or living longer with it, progress is a double-edged sword. As numbers surge, the NHS will soon be unable to cope with the huge increase in demand for health services and the support that organisations like Macmillan provide will become even more urgent and important. But we cannot do it alone. As we are threatened by a cancer crisis of unmanageable proportions, all political parties must step up and make a real commitment to supporting people with cancer. At this point it is no longer enough to just pay lip service to the issue. Ahead of the next general election all political parties must prioritise cancer care in their upcoming manifestos. It is essential that every one of those 2.5 million people receives the highest quality care and support and gets the best chance they possibly can of surviving cancer.”
Existing research from Macmillan highlights that tens of thousands of UK cancer patients are diagnosed too late, shown a lack of compassion, or denied a ‘good’ death. To address this and for the health and social care systems to react to the growing number of people getting and surviving cancer, Macmillan Cancer Support is urging all parties at Westminster to commit in their manifestos to:
- Delivering cancer survival rates that match the best in Europe, particularly by reducing late diagnosis, investing in care after treatment by delivering the cancer Recovery Package, and addressing the needs of older people.
- Ensuring all cancer patients are treated with the highest levels of dignity and respect, and supporting staff to deliver this.
- Improving end-of-life care for people with cancer by delivering free social care for people at the end of their life, to enable them to spend their final weeks and days in the place of their choice.