Survival rates improve for cancer but quality of life can be challenging

A new report from Macmillan Cancer Support (Cancer Then and Now) sets out the vast improvement that there has been in survival rates for cancer but 1 in 4 survivors suffer life-long side effects of the treatments they received for the disease.

Survival rate changes

The report says that more than 170,000 people in the UK who were diagnosed with cancer in the 1970s are still alive with survivors more likely to survive at least ten years than at the start of the 1970s.

Side effects

While this is welcome news, the report notes that for the 1 in 4 survivors affected, chronic side effects from treatment can range from incontinence, fatigue, sexual difficulties, limb swelling to psychological problems.

However, the side effects from modern treatments are generally less likely to cause acute problems such as increased risk of heart attack and stroke than they were 40 years ago.

Professor Jane Maher, Chief Medical Officer of Macmillan Cancer Support said:

With so many people alive today who were diagnosed with cancer in the 1970s and 1980s, it’s clear that having cancer is no longer necessarily the death sentence it once was; that is a cause for celebration.

But while it is not always life-ending, it is life-changing and we need to ensure that people who have had the disease or who are living with it have a good quality of life and tailored, appropriate support.’

The Future

Some patients are unprepared for this long term change and the charity is focusing now on raising awareness of these potential problems and ensuring that patients have the support they need. Macmillan provide much needed help to patients who often will be unable to work during treatment and beyond if side effects are significant.

Macmillan Cancer predict that with a rise of 3 % per annum in survival rates, more than 4 million people will be living with cancer by 2030 and the 5 years plus survival rates will more than double to 2.7 million over the period 2010- 2030. By the end of 2016 more than 1,000 people in the UK are expected to be diagnosed with cancer every day.

These statistics demonstrate that while there is good news, it remains a challenge to properly resource the battle against cancer and to provide enough appropriate care for all those who now survive.

If you or a family member have been affected by cancer and have experienced a delay in diagnosis or problem with treatment, speak to our Clinical Negligence Team who are experienced in dealing with these types of claims. Contact number 0800 316 8892.