Thousands living longer after being diagnosed with stage four cancer

Advances in treatment and care mean that a growing number of people have cancer that cannot be cured, but can be managed by treatments that alleviate the symptoms and may also prolong their life (iStock)
Advances in treatment and care mean that a growing number of people have cancer that cannot be cured, but can be managed by treatments that alleviate the symptoms and may also prolong their life (iStock)

 

THOUSANDS of patients with the most advanced cancer are beating the odds and surviving for several years after diagnosis, new analysis shows.

Macmillan Cancer Support said in 2015 there were at least 17,000 people alive who had been diagnosed with stage four cancer at least two years previously.

Stage four, or advanced, cancer means that a primary cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

It is usually associated with a poor prognosis.

Macmillan Cancer Support said in most cases stage four cancer cannot be cured, but new and improved treatment and care means patients are able to live for several years.

Those whose options were previously more limited could now see their cancer become more “treatable and manageable, like other chronic illnesses”, the charity added.

The charity’s analysis of Public Health England’s National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service is the first of its kind to track the survival of patients diagnosed with the latest stage of disease.

Experts looked at data from 2015 on patients diagnosed with cancer between 2012 and 2013.

After examining data on 10 common cancers, they found that at least 17,000 people were still alive in 2015 having been diagnosed with stage four cancer two to three years previously.

This included:

  • 1,600 women diagnosed with stage four breast cancer.
  •  6,400 men diagnosed with stage four prostate cancer.
  • 1,200 people diagnosed with stage four lung cancer.
  • 2,300 people diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer.

Adrienne Betteley, Macmillan Cancer Support’s specialist adviser for end of life care, said: “These figures, available for the first time, show that thousands of people in England are now beating expectations and living longer with cancer, even after being diagnosed at stage four.

“This is because advances in treatment and care mean that a growing number of people have cancer that cannot be cured, but can be managed by treatments that alleviate the symptoms and may also prolong their life.

“This is really positive news, but living with advanced cancer can be a difficult situation to be in.

“As well as dealing with the physical symptoms of cancer, having multiple hospital appointments, scans and treatment options to contend with, there’s also the emotional and psychological impact of having an uncertain future.

“Everyone who supports cancer patients, including doctors, nurses and cancer charities, needs to learn how we can best help people in this situation, whether it is by providing information on side effects of treatment, or giving practical support such as advice on arranging financial matters.

“We want people to live for as long as they can, but also as well as they can, with cancer.”

The data will be presented to the National Cancer Research Institute conference in Liverpool.

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