'Massive' increase in cancer survival

In collaboration with the Press Association

Two million people are currently living with or surviving after cancer in the UK - nearly double the previous estimate of 1.2 million, according to research from King's College London's Thames Cancer Registry.

The study suggests that services for long-term survivors of cancer need to improve as the number of cancer cases is rising while the number of deaths is falling.

The prevalence of cancer in England is currently increasing at a rate of 3.2 per cent per year, according to the figures, and this trend is expected to continue over the coming years as a result of a number of factors, including an ageing population, earlier detection of cancer and continued improvements in treatments.

Martin Ledwick, head of Cancer Research UK's information nurses, said: "It's really good news that more and more people are living with and surviving cancer. But it is essential that people surviving a diagnosis of the disease continue to receive long-term care and support that is tailored to their individual needs.

"The key is to provide good information for people affected by cancer so that they know what to expect from their treatment, understand how the disease may affect their future well-being, and where they can go for help and support.

"Cancer Research UK is working with health professionals to research suitable follow-up and support programmes for cancer survivors."

But Ciaran Devane, chief executive at Macmillan Cancer Support which commissioned the research, warned: "The number of cancer survivors is growing every year and failure by Primary Care Trusts to put in place proper resources to care for these people is a ticking time bomb.

"It is about time the NHS acknowledged that cancer is no longer necessarily a death sentence and recognised its long-term impact on people's lives."

Mr Devane welcomed the news that more people are living after a cancer diagnosis, but noted that care and support need to be continued after a person's initial medical treatment has ended.

"Survivors of cancer are often left with long-term physical and emotional problems, fractured relationships or financial difficulties," he pointed out.

Macmillan Cancer Support has called for a comprehensive package of care which provides long-term emotional, financial and practical support for cancer survivors long after their initial hospital care.