Thousands of cancer patients surviving in UK decades after diagnosis
More than 170,000 people in the UK who were diagnosed with cancer up to 40 years ago are still alive, a report by Macmillan Cancer Support shows.
But it warns that for many survivors, cancer leaves a lifelong legacy of side-effects that cannot be ignored. A report by the charity, called Cancer Then and Now, looks at diagnosis, care and survival.
Macmillan experts say an "extraordinary" number of people are now alive many years after they were diagnosed, thanks to improvements in health care that also include better screening to spot cancers early on.
But it warns that thousands of people struggle with the physical, emotional and financial effects of a cancer diagnosis and treatment for many years afterwards. And some, particularly people who have survived or lived with cancer for many decades, will be living with the consequences of now outdated treatments with often more severe side-effects.
The review estimates around a quarter of survivors will have long-term issues that need support. Prof Jane Maher, chief medical officer at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: "We now see fewer of the big side-effects, such as an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, we saw after treatment in the 1970s and 80s. But some of the effects doctors consider 'small', such as fatigue and poor bowel control, can have a profound impact on someone's quality of life. Sadly, there is no cancer treatment available at the moment that does not carry a risk of side-effects."
And Macmillan says as more and more people survive long-term with cancer, more needs to be done to make sure they get the right care. The organisation says it has evolved from being a handful of nurses providing end-of-life care in the 1970s to a much bigger network that even includes benefits advisers.
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