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Cancer cases in the UK will rocket by a third in just 17 years unless we tackle a worsening diagnosis and treatment crisis, experts are warning. The doomsday scenario comes a week after the Government ditched a landmark 10-year strategy to fight back – and replaced it with a catch-all plan to tackle all diseases.
It is predicted that the number of new cancer cases annually will rise from 384,000 now to 506,000 in just 17 years.
Cancer Research UK – stung by the ditching of the targeted strategy – is begging for help.
Chief executive Michelle Mitchell slammed ministers for “watering down” the battle plan in favour of a major conditions strategy targeting all killer diseases.
She said it risked failing to focus on the problem at hand – to urgently improve waiting times for cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Ms Mitchell added: “We urge the Government not to further dilute its commitment to cancer – and to deliver a plan that will swiftly turn things around for patients and their families.”
CRUK estimates there will be 208,000 UK cancer deaths every year by 2040 – 25 per cent more than the 167,000 now.
From 2023 until that point, there could be a total of 8.4 million new cases and 3.5 million deaths. Most of the predicted rise in cases is due to a rapidly ageing population. But the deepening obesity crisis is also to blame.
More than 21 million adults – almost four in 10 – are expected to be obese by 2040. Overweight youngsters are around five times more likely to remain so as adults, increasing their cancer risk later.
And if recent trends continue, CRUK says smoking could cause about one million cancer cases in 17 years. The charity’s chief clinician Professor Charles Swanton said: “Right now, the NHS is just about treading water.
“By the end of the next decade, if left unaided, the NHS risks being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of new cancer diagnoses. I’m hopeful that through investment and reform in the health service and advancements in research, future numbers of cases might not be as high as these projections warn.
UK cancer services for a country of our wealth and ingenuity are truly in an awful place
Professor Karol Sikora
“But if the Government doesn’t act now to prepare for this demand, there’s a risk that our hard-fought progress in cancer survival could go into reverse.”
CRUK says cancer survival here lags behind comparable countries and the NHS is not on track for its target of diagnosing 75 percent at stage one or two by 2028.
Oncologist and Daily Express columnist Professor Karol Sikora wants the role of Minister for Cancer to be established. He said: “UK cancer services for a country of our wealth and ingenuity are truly in an awful place. We need a dedicated minister to drive change. Without political impetus and real accountability, our inadequate record will worsen with cancer patients the ones who suffer and needlessly die.
“We need to act now – that means proper investment in training, equipment and people today.”
In October, a “superpower” cancer summit between the US and UK to pool ideas for beating the disease was cancelled due to the political turmoil here.
Last night, the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We are laser-focused on fighting cancer.”
Trial could slow disease on the brain
Medics are reversing the order of treatment for brain cancer with the aim of destroying more malignant cells as early as possible.
MRI scans and targeted radiotherapy will be used before surgery in a trial at Manchester’s Christie Trust.
Patients currently have surgery first, radiotherapy, then chemotherapy. Yet fewer than 10 per cent live for more than five years.
Dr Gerben Borst, a radiation oncologist who is leading the clinical trial, said: “The order of radiotherapy and surgery should be challenged.
“Remnant tumour cells remain growing, potentially even more aggressively post-surgery in the recovery period, before the patient is given the standard course of radiotherapy. Therefore, better strategies are desperately needed to target all tumour cells at an earlier stage.
“We hope by giving targeted radiotherapy before surgery to stop the tumour from growing back so quickly.”
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