Many of you might be thinking that we don’t hear much about cancer these days. Indeed that is true. Is it now under control? Unfortunately not, it is still doing it’s worst, and sadly this week we lost our great cancer community friend Della. The only noise I can hear is more charities trying to convince you to leave money to them in your will!! Doing nothing, is no longer an option as it is draining the future of our country.
Cancer is one of the biggest killers in the United Kingdom, with over 165,000 cancer deaths every year, cutting far too many British lives tragically short. Cancer survival rates in the UK have slowly improved over time, but the country still lags far behind other European and Western nations when it comes to cancer mortality. For example, 5-year cancer survival rates in the UK have languished around 50% for decades, compared to over 60% in Australia and Canada.
Diminishing Returns: How Lack Of Progress Against Cancer Is Draining Britain
Experts point to several factors that have limited rapid progress against cancer in the UK, including a lack of major breakthroughs in cancer research, fragmented cancer research efforts across institutions, below-average healthcare spending on cancer, and the absence of a comprehensive national cancer control plan. But what has been the impact of this slow rate of advancement in the fight against cancer on the UK’s health and prosperity?
Past investments into cancer research, such as through major initiatives like the £275 million Cancer Research UK Centre, have provided diminishing returns without better coordination between cancer research institutions and sustained growth in funding for cancer research. Cancer research spending in the UK as a percentage of GDP has actually declined over the past decade, even as costs for cancer research continue rising. This restricts the translation of promising cancer research from the lab to the clinic. It also risks leading scientists and biotechnology companies to take their cancer innovations and breakthroughs elsewhere, draining the UK of talent and economic potential.
Fragmented Efforts Letting British Citizens Down In Cancer Fight
Limited advancement in cancer prevention, screening, diagnosis and treatment is also placing an increasing burden on the UK’s taxpayer-funded National Health Service. Over 3 million people are currently living with cancer in the UK, each requiring costly care that drains NHS cancer care resources. As cancer survival slowly improves, more people are also living longer with cancer, needing long-term cancer treatment and monitoring that strains hospital capacity. And without gains in early cancer detection, more patients are being diagnosed when their cancers are at later, more advanced and complex stages, which are the most expensive cancer stages to treat. This perfect storm of factors is contributing to rapidly rising costs of cancer care in the NHS, estimated to reach a massive £24 billion per year by 2035 if trends continue.
Cancer Drain: How Lack Of Progress Is Hurting UK Health And Wealth
In addition to the devastating human toll, cancer deaths often represent the loss of British citizens in their prime productive years. Cancer is the number one leading cause of death for adults between 40 to 79 years old in the UK. When workforce participation is reduced due to cancer illnesses and deaths, this depresses economic productivity and places increased strain on public services. There are also major productivity costs associated with time taken off work for cancer treatment by British cancer patients and survivors. The economic toll of cancer absenteeism and mortality is estimated at £8 billion annually and growing.
It’s Time For UK To Step Up The Fight Against The Cancer Epidemic
While no health system globally is advancing cancer care rapidly enough, comparisons can be made with other nations to provide useful benchmarks for the UK. Countries such as Australia and Canada have demonstrated that government-backed national cancer control initiatives and plans can yield positive outcomes in tackling cancer. Their centralized efforts have improved coordination, funding, and public education around cancer.
The UK must take coordinated strategic action and commit greater resources to cancer research, improving access to cancer screening, expanding the cancer care workforce, and educating the British public about cancer. Investing more in cancer prevention and early cancer detection efforts can curb costs for cancer care over the long-term. Accelerating UK leadership in cancer research will require vision, partnerships, and urgently increased funding. The ultimate rewards will be longer, healthier and more productive lives for British citizens. The time for the UK to step up and take more aggressive action against cancer is now, before costs continue to accumulate and cancer takes an even greater devastating toll on the nation.
As always, these are my opinions, based on personal experiences. Please feel free to share your own below.