A major study has shown that half of cancer patients survive for at least ten years after being diagnosed. This is the period when it counts as them having beaten the disease. This figure has doubled since the 1970s.
According to experts, these promising results could be an indication that within the next two decades, more than 75% of cancer patients may be free of the disease. They gave credit to advances in treatments and early diagnosis.
Researchers analysed the records of about 7.2 million UK cancer patients during the period 1972 to 2011. The data indicated that those who are diagnosed today have a 50% chance of surviving the disease for at least ten years. This is in comparison to the early ‘70s when only 25% were expected to live for the same period.
The chances of survival vary greatly between the different cancer types. Seventy eight percent of females suffering breast cancer are expected to live for ten years, while only one percent of people suffering pancreatic cancer and 5% of patients with lung cancer are expected to live for the same period.
Researchers are placing their focus and efforts on discovering new drugs to for the difficult-to-treat cancer types, such as oesophageal cancer and brain tumours.
In the UK, about 331,000 people are diagnosed with cancer each year. Based on this figure, around 165,500 can expect to survive for at least one decade.
The Head of Cancer Research UK’s survival group at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Disease, Professor Michel Coleman, said that when a patient has survived for a decade, the theory is that they have no more chance of dying from the disease than anyone else.
He said that patients who have survived for such a long period are no longer at higher risk of survival than anyone else, which means that it could be indicative of a cure.
The Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK, Dr Harpal Kumar, said that they are more informed about cancer now than ever before, but the fact that only 50% of patients are surviving the disease is not a cause for celebration. He said the target should be to increase the rate of survival from 50% to 75% during a 20-year period.
Despite the advances made in the treatment of the disease, the survival rates in Britain on par with countries such as the Czech Republic and Estonia, but remain lower than Scandinavia, France and Spain.
Researchers have placed blame for this low survival rate on late diagnosis as this means that the disease is only detected once it has spread and become untreatable.
Many potential patients delay visits to their GP even if they are aware of warning signs and doctors may miss symptoms, particularly if they can be related to other conditions.
Researchers are unsure if the Government’s ambitious strategy of saving an additional 5,000 lives a year from cancer by 2016 is on course.
Image Credit: Bugeater