Cancer Research UK recently said that people diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, bowel, breast and ovarian cancer – cancers that are notoriously difficult to treat and sometimes end in death – are now surviving in numbers that double previous figures.
Survival for at least 10 years passed a diagnosis for breast cancer has risen from less than 40 percent in the 1970’s to 77 percent now. For bowel cancer, the rate has risen from just 23 percent to 50 percent.
The number of people who survived non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in the 1970’s was only 22 percent and is now 51 percent. Women with ovarian cancer don’t have the automatic death sentence of the past. Where only 18 percent of them survived 10 years after the diagnosis, now 35 percent do.
Survival rates for esophageal cancer and myeloma are still very low, below 20 percent, but are thought to have tripled over the same period and patients with leukemia are four times more likely to survive than they were 40 years ago.
Twenty-four-year old Claire Daniels is one such survivor. She was only 19 and at university when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. After treatments that included a stem cell transplant and a month on an isolation ward, she went into remission.
Now Daniels works as an events coordinator for Cancer Research UK.
“In between treatments I organised some student balls to raise money for cancer and it really helped me to focus and detract from the illness,” she said.
“I wanted to stand up in front of my peers and say: ‘Don’t think cancer is just a disease that happens to old people. A year ago I was a student partying just like you. I’m 19 but I’ve got cancer.’ That’s when I realised I’d like to organise events for a living.
“I feel very lucky that I was able to have such effective treatment - some of which was shaped by the charity’s researchers.”
Professor Peter Johnson, chief clinician for the charity, thinks the increased survival rates are because patients are diagnosed more quickly, surgeries are better and the medications given are more effective.
Perhaps their next step should be helping people survive beyond 10 years post cancer?