Cancer Research UK urges action from the government to adopt a bold new plan to cure the disease by 2040.
The report also said cancer is a fixable problem, pointing out that 30 years ago England and Denmark were improving cancer outcomes at broadly the same rate, but Denmark has now “raced ahead, with consistent funding and long-term cancer strategies”.
“Across the UK, cancer waiting times are being consistently missed, and some have not been met for over a decade. While they wait for diagnosis and treatment, patients and their families face an anxious and worrying time.”
“Investment in prevention, NHS staff, equipment, and facilities is needed to turn the tide,” according to the report.
The target set by the NHS to diagnose 75 percent of cancer patients at the earliest stages of one or two by 2028 also likely will be missed, according to the report.
Within a year of the next general election, ministers should have raised the age of sale for tobacco products and should implement the 2022 legislation on TV and online advertising restrictions on foods high in fat, salt, and sugar.
Cancer Research UK chief executive Michelle Mitchell said: “Cancer is the defining health issue of our time. Avoiding thousands of cancer deaths is possible but it will take leadership, political will, investment, and reform.”
“The impact of cancer is immense. We estimate that half a million people, friends, colleagues, and loved ones will be diagnosed with the disease every year by 2040.
“Their lives are at stake if we don’t act now,” said Mitchell.
Former national cancer director at the Department of Health, Mike Richards, told a briefing there is much work to do to improve diagnosis, treatment, and survival.
Richards, who now advises NHS England, said: “Why do we have poor survival? Well, it is a combination, of course, of diagnosing people at a later stage of the disease and then inconsistencies in treatment.”
“The late-stage problem is a big one. Nearly half of all patients with cancer are diagnosed at stages three and four. They have a poor prognosis compared to those in stages one and two.
“We are not currently on target for the Government’s target of 75 percent being diagnosed (at early stages) by 2028.
“There’s a lot we can do. We can improve our screening programs, we can improve our diagnosis of symptomatic patients and we can reduce inequalities in treatment.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Cancer is being diagnosed at an earlier stage, more often, with survival rates improving across almost all types of cancer and the NHS seeing and treating record numbers of cancer patients over the last two years.
“Our Major Conditions Strategy will set out how we will improve cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment and we have opened 135 community diagnostic centres offering over five million additional tests, including for cancer.”
“Research and the life sciences are crucial in the fight against cancer, which is why we invest £1 billion per year through the National Institute for Health and Care Research and brokered new partnerships with BioNTech and Moderna which will enable patients in the NHS to be the first in the world to benefit from potential cancer vaccines.”