Rising cancer diagnoses could 'overwhelm' UK's NHS

In total, there could be 8.4 million new cases of cancer between 2023 and 2040

About four in 10 cancer cases are preventable, a cancer charity has said. PA
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Cancer patients could overwhelm the UK’s National Health Service as more and more people are diagnosed with the disease, a leading charity has warned.

Cases are projected to rise from the current 384,000 a year to 506,000 in 2040, a jump of about a third that would take the number of new annual cases to more than 500,000 for the first time, Cancer Research UK data showed.

The NHS could be “overwhelmed by the sheer volume of new cancer diagnoses”, the charity said.

“Right now, the NHS is just about treading water,” said Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician.

“By the end of the next decade, if left unaided, the NHS risks being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of new cancer diagnoses.

“It takes 15 years to train an oncologist, pathologist, radiologist or surgeon. The government must start planning now to give patients the support they will so desperately need.”

About four in 10 cancer cases are preventable, with the two biggest preventable causes being smoking and carrying excess weight.

If current trends continue, smoking could cause one million cancer cases in the UK between now and 2040, Cancer Research UK said.

Its figures show there will be 208,000 overall cancer deaths in the UK each year by 2040 — an increase of almost a quarter from the 167,000 seen now.

In total, there could be 8.4 million new cases of cancer between 2023 and 2040.

Cancer Research UK said the figures should be a warning to the government and added that cancer survival in the UK lags behind that of comparable countries.

Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “Today’s analysis provides a stark reminder of the challenges the NHS in England is set to face in years to come.

“Cancer patients are already facing unacceptably long waits for diagnosis and treatment, and staff in cancer services are working very hard.”

The government’s recently announced Major Conditions Strategy — which replaces a previously promised 10-year cancer plan — is “also unlikely to provide the road map required to achieve this goal”, the charity said.

The figures show that the number of people diagnosed with kidney cancer every year is projected to increase by 61 per cent between 2017-2019 and 2038-2040, from about 13,600 to about 21,900.

Over the same period, the number of men diagnosed with prostate cancer is projected to rise by 55 per cent, from about 54,800 to about 85,100.

And the number of women dying from uterine cancer could rise by 68 per cent between 2018-2021 and 2038-2040, from about 2,500 to about 4,200.

Deaths from liver cancer are projected to jump from about 6,000 to about 9,500 ever year.

Updated: February 03, 2023, 12:01 AM