Few realise cancer can be managed
Focus on cure ‘overshadowing’ progress
HEALTH: The emphasis on finding a cure for cancer has overshadowed the huge advances made, so few realise it is a disease that can be managed for years, a survey has revealed.
The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) has pointed out that survival times from cancer have roughly doubled in a decade.
LESS THAN a third of the public believe that cancer is a disease that can be managed for years, a survey for cancer experts has revealed.
The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) has warned that focusing exclusively on finding a cure is overshadowing “huge” progress already being made allowing those with advanced cancer to live longer.
Survival time from cancer has roughly doubled in a decade, and the average patient now lives more than 10 years after being diagnosed.
However, just 28 per cent of people believe the disease can be controlled in the long term, according to the ICR-commissioned YouGov poll of the public and cancer patients.
In comparison, 46 per cent of people said they believed heart disease can be managed in the long term, and 77 per cent said the same for diabetes.
The ICR’s chief executive, Professor Paul Workman, said: “We believe it’s vital that we can take the public on this journey with us, by understanding that cancer is a hugely complex and evolving disease, and that we need to move beyond the old, binary ‘cure or nothing’ thinking to find innovative new ways of treating the disease that can give people a longer and better life.
“The good news is thanks to research, we are already making
great progress against cancer, with diseases that just a few years ago were lethal, now increasingly manageable for patients long term. If we can finish off cancer evolution, we will effectively finish cancer.”
Professor Paul Workman, chief executive of the Institute of Cancer Research.
The survey, of 2,103 members of public and 366 patients which is published today, also found only 25 per cent of people think progress against cancer is being made.
The ICR is calling for more attention to be given to cancer’s ability to resist treatment, so that more people can live longer and survive cancer.
The organisation said cures are not yet possible for many people with advanced cancer, but personalised treatment is greatly extending their lives.
Only half of people questioned cancer evolution and drug resistance as one of the biggest challenges in cancer research and treatment.
And a third of the public and patient groups both wrongly believed that being given the “allclear” means the disease has been cured, when it actually means it is undetectable at present but could return.
The ICR is launching the world’s first “Darwinian” drug discovery programme within its new cancer centre, aimed at increasing the proportion of patients whose disease can be controlled long term.
Barbara Ritchie Lines underwent eight years of treatment after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005. Her cancer is now undetectable.
She said: “When I first got diagnosed, I was told that I had maybe only 12 months, but it’s been 14 years, and here I am. Cancer doesn’t have to be the end – it can be the start of a whole new life.”
We are already making great progress against cancer.