Half of cancer sufferers 'live a decade or more'

Radiographer preparing a woman for a mammogram Better screening is one of the factors behind the rise in survival rates

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Half of people in England and Wales now being diagnosed with cancer will survive at least a decade - double the rate in the early 1970s, figures show.

New treatments have played a role as well as earlier diagnosis and screening.

But Cancer Research UK, which carried out the research, said the progress showed there needed to be new, more ambitious aims.

It said it wanted to see 10-year survival hit 75% in the next 20 years.

And it promised to increase investment in research by half within the next decade to help achieve that.

Researchers said cancer need no longer be viewed as the "death sentence" it once was with the new figures suggesting a "tipping point" had been reached.

'Significant progress'

The analysis showed that in 1971-2, 50% of people diagnosed with cancer died within a year. Now 50% survive for at least a decade - up from 24% in 1971-2.

But the findings, based on the outcomes for more than 7 million patients, also showed that for some cancers, survival rates were still very low.

For example, just 1% of pancreatic cancer patients and 5% of lung cancer patients can expect to survive for 10 years.

Chart showing how cancer survival rates have improved since 1971

Nonetheless, the overall figures showed there had been significant progress in the way cancer was treated.

The findings have been adjusted to take into account the changing profile of new cancer being diagnosed - there has been a shift away from the more deadly disease such as lung cancer to ones where survival rates tend to be better - so provide a measure of how the care of cancer patients has improved.

Cancer Research UK chief executive Dr Harpal Kumar said: "I don't think we would ever have expected to achieve what we have. We're gradually reversing the tide on this devastating disease.

"But many people still do not survive - we must tackle that."

Parminder Sangha said she jumped for joy when she was told she was in remission

Researchers said there were a number of reasons for the success, which includes earlier diagnosis.

But if progress is going to continue - and the 75% target achieved - Cancer Research UK identified key areas to focus on. These included investment in personalised cancer treatment, reducing smoking rates and paying particular attention to the cancers with the lowest survival rates.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health, which has itself set targets to improve cancer survival rates in the coming years, said: "We share Cancer Research UK's aspirations for the UK to be the best place in the world to survive cancer.

"We have seen significant improvements in some cancer survival rates, with new and innovative research and earlier diagnosis at the heart of this upward trend."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 178.

    You can get intravenous Vit C. Use the internet and find the consultant there and then see if it if it will help you cancer treatment.
    My fiancée is a dietician and was offered this for a cold-sore treatment, she questioned this "doctor" and he admitted he was a quack!

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    Thank you for highlighting that adult cancers have seen such a fantastic improvement over the last few decades but can you please highlight the rarer childhood cancers that have seen NO improvement in treatment or survival.

    Ewing's Sarcoma

    Are you going to do one regarding these forms unfortunately they do make for heartbreaking reading.

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    This article is too general about "cancer". Cancers where survivability is less, e.g. lung cancer are less frequent due to lower rates of smoking and safer working conditions. So what's left is the ones where people have always lived a long time and caught later in life with e.g. prostate cancer. The results in this article are unscientifically analysed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    I would like to urge all women to attend their cervical smear tests. My daughters life was saved by attending her tests.It is quick and so important. Come on ladies we are so strong this is a walk in the park as the saying goes .Free preformed by a female nurse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    One thing that might affect cancer survival rates is if the NHS could do away with the wait.

    The wait to get a doctors appointment.
    The wait to get an x-ray/scan
    The wait for results to come back.
    The wait to see a specialist.
    The wait for treatment.

    While you wait the cancer grows.


Comments 5 of 178


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