June 6th is Cancer Survivors Day worldwide. The overall aim of this day is to raise awareness of issues and challenges that cancer patients face along with an opportunity to celebrate life and connect with each other.
This year marks the 34th Cancer Survivors Day which was first introduced in the United States in 1987.
Great strides continue to be made in developing new technologies and treatments to diagnose and treat cancer including new developments in immunotherapy and genomics. With growing numbers of people surviving and living longer after a diagnosis of cancer, it is imperative that services are designed and developed to provide care and support for the future and inequalities are addressed. In the UK cancer survival has doubled over the past 40 years from 24% - 50%.
Every two minutes someone in England will be told they have cancer. Half of the people born since 1960 will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. By 2040 it is expected that there will be 5.3 million people living with cancer. More than half of people receiving a cancer diagnosis will live ten years or more and 70% of people with cancer are living with another long term condition. An ageing population combined with increased survival rates means that the number of people diagnosed and living with cancer will continue to grow, even with improvements in prevention and treatment.
A diagnosis of cancer is devastating and can affect our personal, social and working lives along with all those who are close to us. Studies have highlighted that many cancer patients struggle to manage the emotional impact of the disease with many facing sleep problems, fear, and anxiety as a result of their diagnosis. Patients have highlighted their top concerns including, tiredness, fatigue, issues with appetite, getting around, and pain amongst others.
In 2007 The National Cancer Survivorship Initiative (a partnership between the NHS, Macmillan, other voluntary organisations, and patient groups) aimed to put greater focus on recovery, health and wellbeing after treatment so people can live a healthy and active life. Key elements of this work centred on the importance of shared decision making, supporting patient self-management, and designing services to address the future needs of cancer patients.
Building on this work NHS England published its ambitious Long-Term Plan in January 2019 setting out a new approach to improve the quality of care and health which included the importance of personalised care interventions. Along with Patient Stratified Follow Up these form key building blocks to achieving a beneficial impact on the experiences of people living with and beyond cancer.
We know that people value the services they received from NHS and other health and social care organisations. The findings of the 2019 NHS National Cancer Patient Experience Survey showed that 95% of respondents rated their overall care on a scale of 0 (very poor) to 10 (very good) between 7-10. Whilst there is always the need for ongoing improvement clearly this is a testimony to the excellent and dedicated teams that provide treatment, care, and support.
It is thanks to advances in treatments, earlier diagnosis, and greater awareness that there has been a considerable improvement in cancer survival rates. With the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on patients and services the importance of delivering and ensuring services for people living with cancer will continue to grow. It is crucial that we continue to build on the excellent services provided by health, social care, the voluntary sector, and other organisations to ensure people can live a healthy and active life as possible for as long as possible.
On Cancer Survivorship Day I will be reflecting on the great advances in treatment, care and support along with challenges and issues that are ever-present for those living with and affected by cancer.