In 2012 alone, 8.2 million people died from cancer. The disease continues to devastate the developed world and it’s having a bigger impact in the developing world. The World Health Organization says cancer is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Sixty percent of all new cases occur in Africa, Asia and Central and South America. But encouragingly, a new report suggests cancer survival rates could be tripled with early diagnosis.
New figures published by Cancer Research UK show that early diagnosis for the eight most common cancers, such as breast, malignant melanoma and testicular cancers, significantly increased survival rates. The stage of a cancer is based on how large the tumor is and the extent it has spread to other parts of the body. When the cancer was diagnosed at stage one or two, 80% of patients survived for at least 10 years. Survival rates decreased to 25% when the cancer was diagnosed at stage three or four. Nintey percent of patients whose cancer was diagnosed at stage one survived for 10 years, whereas that figure drops to 5% for those whose disease is diagnosed at stage four.
“These figures show the prize on offer if we can diagnose more cancers earlier. And, if the Government acts on the recommendations in the new cancer strategy, we can increase the number of people diagnosed at an early stage across all cancer types – from around half of patients now to more than 60 per cent by 2020 – improving the outlook for thousands of people with the disease,” Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of early diagnosis, said in a statement.
The charity has previously pointed out that early diagnosis not only increases survival, but it’s a lot cheaper to treat patients with early stages of cancer. Cancer Research UK also suggests that those whose cancer has been found early have access to more treatment options, which are more effective, than those who don’t find out until the disease has reached a later stage.
“Diagnosing cancer early isn’t always easy – the symptoms may be vague or similar to less serious conditions, so cancer isn’t always the first thing you or your doctor considers. It’s important that people are aware of their bodies and, if they notice any unusual or persistent changes, they should see their GP,” Dr. Richard Roope, Cancer Research UK’s GP expert, said in a statement.
“GPs play a critical role in early diagnosis; knowing when symptoms need to be investigated and referring patients promptly for tests – as well as making sure patients get test results quickly,” he added.