Yesterday, Buckingham Palace announced that King Charles has an unidentified type of cancer and is undergoing treatment. Reports have said that his cancer was diagnosed early and unsurprisingly the monarch will receive the best treatment and care available without delay. However, the news comes just a few days after a new report from the country’s leading cancer charity, Cancer Research U.K. saying that overall, survival rates in the U.K. are slowing down due partly to unacceptable delays in diagnosis and treatment.
“Cancer survival is not improving quickly enough,” said Jon Shelton, head of cancer intelligence at Cancer Research U.K. “People are waiting far too long for diagnosis and to start treatment, with cancer waiting time targets consistently being missed.”
The chance of surviving cancer for 10 years or more in the U.K. rose to 49.8% in the most recent analysis led by researchers at the London School for Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, up from 47.9% in 2010-2011. But the rate of improvement has slowed significantly, sounding alarms among cancer organizations and policymakers and calls for urgent action to address the slow down.
“Cancer survival in the UK is at the highest point it’s ever been, which shows that together, we’re making progress on beating cancer,” said Cancer Research U.K.’s chief executive, Michelle Mitchell. “It’s worrying that the rate of improvement has slowed in recent years though, and cancer patients today face anxious and historically long waits for tests and treatments.”
The U.K. has been struggling to meet cancer targets in recent years, with causes such as Brexit and a severe Covid-19 pandemic taking their toll on several aspects of an already-struggling healthcare system. This has resulted in extended wait times for diagnosis and access to treatment, leaving the U.K. lagging behind other high-income countries. The last time that all cancer targets were met was nine years ago, in 2015. By 2040, predictions show that there will be half a million new cases of cancer diagnosed per year in the U.K., which the health system currently looks to be unprepared for.
The U.K. has successful screening programs for bowel, cervical and breast cancers, which are thought to save over 5,000 lives annually. The report also notes that if lung cancer screening was offered to people between 55-74 who smoke, or used to smoke, a further 1,900 deaths could be prevented per year. Smoking remains the leading cause of cancer in the U.K. resulting in 150 deaths per day. To try to tackle this, the U.K. government has proposed a “generational” smoking ban, which if enacted, will mean that younger people are never legally allowed to buy tobacco in the U.K.
“Smoking is still the leading preventable cause of death, which is why we are calling on all MPs to support the upcoming age of sale legislation which could help stop the next generation from ever becoming addicted and prevent tens of thousands of premature deaths every year,” said Shelton.