Figures from Cancer Research UK have revealed that death rates from cancer have dropped ten per cent in ten years, but the number of actual deaths continues to rise. In 2013, 284 out of every 100,000 people died from cancer, a drop from 312 in every 100,000 a decade ago. This is a drop of around 162,000 people.
The number of cases of cancer, however, has risen in this time, partly due to the increasing and ageing population, but also due to increasing obesity and sedentary lifestyles. The deaths in some forms of cancer, such as pancreatic and liver, are rising, not falling.
The new national cancer director at NHS England, Cally Palmer, intends to change the way in which cancer treatment is implemented. One of her plans is to allow GPs to refer patients directly for tests when cancer is suspected rather than to a specialist first. This will hopefully speed up diagnosis times for patients.
Another of her aims is to try and stop the regional variation of cancer survival rates. In some areas of the UK, you are four times more likely to die if you are diagnosed with lung cancer. This is a complex, multi-faceted problem but one of the ways to address it is to educate the public on the signs and symptoms of cancer so that the disease is caught early.
The UK continues to lag behind other comparable nations when looking at cancer survival rates. Although a drop in the death rates is always good news, it is obvious that there is still work to be done to improve this. It is hoped that the funding will be available to keep fighting the disease in the future.
By Gemma Crompton, clinical negligence team