Cancer Survival Rates ‘Will Double’ In Next Decade

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Advances in cancer treatments mean that survival rates have the potential to double in the next 10 years, according to the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR). The Telegraph reports that the ICR believes that its goals are realistic, based on recent advances in cancer research. 

New discoveries about the ways cancer spreads through the body, and breakthrough treatments such as combining radiotherapy with viruses, mean that the ICR is confident of a significant improvement in outcomes for patients with advanced cancer within a decade.

Cancer survival rates vary greatly, according to how early the cancer is diagnosed, and what type of cancer it is. In the UK, 58.9% of patients survive for five years after a diagnosis of bowel cancer, but just 19.3% survive for five years after a diagnosis of lung cancer. 

Brain and other intracranial cancers are the 9th most common types of cancer in the UK, according to Cancer Research UK, and rates of diagnosis have increased by almost two-fifths since the early 1990s. There are an average of 5,456 deaths per year, and an average of 12% of patients survive a brain tumour for five years of more. 

Dr Naureen Starling, Consultant Medical Oncologist at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and Reader in Gastrointestinal Cancer Clinical Trials at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: “Many cancers are difficult to detect, often because they are deep in the body or do not become symptomatic until they’re at a late stage.”

She added: “Yet, the earlier cancer is detected, the more possible and effective treatment is likely to be with a greater the chance of survival. This means finding better and faster ways to detect and diagnose the disease is critical.

“To tackle this challenge, we are pioneering research into improved screening approaches, biomarker testing to identify individual risk as well as innovative diagnostic tools. For example, we are currently using liquid biopsies – blood tests which can identify genetic information shed by the tumour – to personalise treatment and identify recurrence earlier.”

Currently, about 40% of cancers are diagnosed at an early stage in the UK, which significantly boosts survival chances. However, the BBC reports that there has been a steep rise in long waiting times for cancer therapy in the UK over the past four years.

Disruption caused by the pandemic, staff shortages, and more people coming forward with symptoms, have all made the situation worse over the past 12 months. This has led to fears that thousands of potential cases could be missed, leading to a spike in cancer-related deaths. 

The NHS are attempting to tackle the issue, with extra community diagnostic centres being established around the UK. However, according to The Royal College of Radiologists, there is a 17% shortfall in suitably qualified doctors to treat cancer in the UK, and there needs to be a renewed focus on training and recruitment for specialist medical staff. 

The most common forms of cancer treatment are surgery, chemotherapy, radiosurgery, and radiotherapy.