The Realities Of Cancer In The UK

My last few months have been busier than I ever imagined. With the delays and cancellations of many cancer services, I have found myself forced into action! Together with Jo Taylor and many others from the online community, we are fighting to get these restored quickly. Due to the Government panic around Covid19, everything else seems to have been kicked into the long grass. Meaning cancer, the biggest single killer in this country has had many resources removed. Including important research and clinical staff. All moved with a focus on the virus.

Let’s not kid ourselves either. Life for a cancer patient in this country was not even as good before the virus as it should have been! Our survival rates compare poorly against similar countries. In 2016 there were 363,317 cases diagnosed and 163,444 deaths. This 28% of total deaths due to cancer. These are figures that are increasing annually. One of the incredible statistics is that 4 in 10 cancer cases can actually be prevented!

Early diagnosis plays a big part in survival statistics, and one of the big problems is staffing levels and specialist equipment availability. If we can’t deal with the amount of testing required in a timely fashion what is the point? So we had plenty to do, even before Covid arrived. Then the world changed! Everything was focussed on the virus. Every available resource was being used, meaning staff were moving, and research changing from cancer to Covid. Now as patients we find ourselves in a very difficult situation.

The missing patients

Many services have been closed, and people are delaying going to their GP or hospital. Very quickly building a backlog of treatments and new diagnoses. Balancing work in the NHS is always about fine margins. But with delays of at least 6 months now occurring whilst entering the autumn/winter season, we can see how difficult things may get. We are talking cancer here! A disease that waits for no one and wants to destroy everything in it’s path. Literally every day costs lives. Why isn’t anyone in power talking more about what is happening for us?

Clinicians are in a very difficult position. They are ‘patient facing’ but can only work within the confines of the NHS. It is not their fault that cancer has been put on the back burner. Charities can talk as much as they like, but have no power when it comes to decision making. Politicians are unfortunately the only ones who can change what is going on now. So I’m pleased to see patients sharing their stories and experiences online or in the media to try and stop these terrible delays.

In 2018 there were 17million cases of cancer diagnosed in the world with 9.6 million deaths. But nobody in the sector barely mentions it and these figures are increasing every year! In this country 50% of us will be directly affected by the disease. Up from 33% not that long ago. Yes there are several reasons, including living longer, but that is not a good excuse. Surely we should have been able to keep up with things naturally. With increased investment and vastly improving technology.

The seemingly unstoppable rise in cancer cases needs a lot more than we were giving it, even before Covid took the entire medical focus! It feels that if we don’t get back to dealing with cancer soon we are sitting on a time bomb. We will start seeing the death rate increasing due to less timely treatment and late diagnosis. Research is another area that needs urgent review. Many clinical trials were stopped, whilst all resources were transferred to Covid. Due to the current financial situation most research organisations have little or no money to continue their cancer work.

Scanning during Covid19 times.

What people affected by cancer need most is hope, if not a cure! Day by day that seems to be taken away as it becomes even more difficult to access the services required in a timely manner. This disease is a modern day plague and the death rate will continue to be much more than Covid at it’s height. How can we continue to ignore something as serious as this? We talk about the incredible cost of the virus on our economy. But what about increasing numbers of people with terminal cancer and it’s side effects?

Cancer is something that affects us all, it doesn’t discriminate. Neither does it respect time. I just don’t understand with these sort of figures why it is not given a much higher priority today. We are just storing up problems for the future, and that is not far away. I am not a conspiracy theorist, but I can’t help but feel there is a lot of money to be made from all organisations in the cancer sector. Starting with drug companies to politicians, all the way down to charity giants. Billions invested across the world and people spending their entire lifetime trying to find some kind of cure.

But we don’t have any cure at all! Sure, the treatments for some of the diseases are less harsh than they were. But ultimately we are poisoning, burning or cutting the tumours as we were hundreds of years ago. I personally don’t believe that we are receiving value for money here. Look what happened when the world focussed on the virus. Everything else stopped and everyone worked together for the single goal of a cure. Even the NHS cut away a lot of it’s own red tape! I actually believe we will find a vaccine soon, which will be incredible.

Why can’t we do something similar with cancer. Yes it is more complex with hundreds of variations but if we can put a man on the moon surely we can do better than we are? As always these are my own opinions gleaned from too many years of personal experience. Please feel free to share yours below!

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