More people are living with and beyond cancer

In collaboration with Adfero

The number of people who are living with and beyond cancer (cancer survivors) has risen, according to new figures from the National Cancer Intelligence Network.

There are currently two million cancer survivors in the UK and the figure is increasing at a rate of three per cent each year.

At the end of 2006, there were 1.1 million people in the UK who had been diagnosed with cancer up to ten years ago. By nation this equates to 939,000 people in England, 100,000 in Scotland, 63,000 in Wales and 29,000 in Northern Ireland.

The highest prevalence across the UK was for women living with and beyond breast cancer, and for men living with and beyond prostate cancer. Both of these forms of cancer have a relatively good prognosis and account for larger proportions of cancer prevalence than they do for cancer incidence.

Breast cancer accounted for 48 per cent of female cancer prevalence in those diagnosed with cancer up to ten years ago, while prostate cancer accounted for 36 per cent of male cancer prevalence.

The second most prevalent cancer in both men (15 per cent) and women (10 per cent) was bowel cancer, which affected around 144,000 people.

Lung cancer only accounts for a very small proportion of ten-year cancer prevalence (three to four per cent), as it has a poor prognosis.

The report was launched by Macmillan Cancer Support, which said the figures highlighted the growing need for the NHS to provide long-term cancer care and support for patients living with cancer.

Dr Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK, said: "This new report shows us that more people than ever are living with and after cancer, and highlights the huge impact advances in research and better treatments have made for cancer patients.

"But there's still a long way to go and Cancer Research UK continues to fund research and run clinical trials to discover the best possible treatments and make them available to patients as quickly as possible. And with advances in identifying key gene changes in cancer we're about to begin an exciting new project working with the NHS, business and government to tailor treatment to the specific gene profile of patients' tumours."

Chief executive Ciaran Devane said: "This new cancer map should be used to help shape the NHS services of the future. The long-term health problems of people living with and beyond cancer are creating an increasing pressure on the NHS.

"We know from research that the long-term impact cancer treatment has on patients can be very debilitating and require further treatment and support. These new statistics show that cancer is no longer necessarily a death sentence and NHS services need to adapt to offer the right long-term care to these people."

Care services minister Paul Burstow welcomed the news that survival rates for many cancers are improving.

"This will provide increased hope to patients undergoing treatment and their families," he said, adding: "Our next step is to ensure the very best care for all cancer survivors. It is vital that everyone receives the level of support they need following treatment."

Professor Sir Mike Richards, national cancer director, said: "These maps, based on data from cancer registries, shed new light on the geography of cancer in the UK. Through the National Cancer Survivorship Initiative (NCSI) we are working to ensure that survivors get the care and support they need to lead as healthy and active a life as possible, for as long as possible."