How a new cancer plan could save 20,000 lives a year by 2040

A bold new plan for cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment has been proposed by a group of experts, who claim that it could save up to 20,000 lives a year in the UK by 2040. The plan, which was published in the journal Lancet Oncology, outlines 12 key actions that the Government should take to reduce the burden of cancer and improve survival rates.

Investing in prevention and early detection

The experts, who are part of the Less Cancer UK group, argue that prevention and early detection are the most effective and cost-effective ways to tackle cancer. They estimate that about 40% of cancers are preventable, and that early diagnosis can increase the chances of survival by up to 90%.

Some of the actions they recommend include:

  • Implementing a comprehensive tobacco control strategy, including raising the age of sale to 21, banning all forms of tobacco advertising and promotion, and increasing taxes on tobacco products.
  • Introducing a minimum unit price for alcohol, restricting alcohol marketing and availability, and providing better support for people with alcohol problems.
  • Promoting healthy diets and physical activity, reducing the consumption of red and processed meat, salt, sugar and trans fats, and increasing the intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fibre.
  • Expanding the national screening programmes for bowel, breast and cervical cancer, and introducing new screening tests for lung, prostate and ovarian cancer.
  • Improving access to genetic testing and counselling for people with a family history of cancer or inherited mutations.
  • Developing a national cancer awareness campaign, to encourage people to recognise the signs and symptoms of cancer and seek medical help promptly.

Improving treatment and care

The experts also call for more investment in cancer research, innovation and infrastructure, to ensure that patients receive the best possible treatment and care. They suggest that the Government should:

How a new cancer plan could save 20,000 lives a year by 2040

  • Increase the funding for cancer research, especially for less common and hard-to-treat cancers, and foster collaboration between academia, industry and the NHS.
  • Accelerate the adoption of new technologies and treatments, such as immunotherapy, precision medicine, artificial intelligence and digital health, and ensure that they are accessible and affordable for all patients.
  • Enhance the workforce and skills of the cancer professionals, including doctors, nurses, radiologists, pathologists, pharmacists, scientists and support staff, and provide them with adequate training and resources.
  • Improve the quality and safety of cancer services, by implementing national standards, guidelines and audits, and ensuring that patients are involved in decision-making and feedback.
  • Support the physical, mental and social well-being of cancer patients and survivors, by providing holistic and personalised care, addressing the long-term effects and complications of cancer and its treatment, and offering financial, practical and emotional support.

Aiming for a cancer-free future

The experts acknowledge that their plan is ambitious and challenging, but they believe that it is achievable and necessary. They say that their plan could reduce the incidence of cancer by 25%, and increase the survival rate from 50% to 75%, by 2040. This would translate into 20,000 fewer deaths and 40,000 fewer new cases of cancer each year.

They urge the Government to adopt their plan as a national priority, and to work with the devolved administrations, the NHS, the public health agencies, the research community, the charity sector, the industry and the public, to make it a reality. They say that their plan is not only a moral duty, but also a smart investment, as it could save the NHS £10 billion a year by 2040, and boost the economy by £40 billion a year.

They conclude: “We have a unique opportunity to transform the future of cancer in the UK. We have the knowledge, the tools and the will to make it happen. We just need the leadership, the vision and the commitment to make it a reality. Together, we can create a cancer-free future for ourselves and our children.”

By Ishan Crawford

Prior to the position, Ishan was senior vice president, strategy & development for Cumbernauld-media Company since April 2013. He joined the Company in 2004 and has served in several corporate developments, business development and strategic planning roles for three chief executives. During that time, he helped transform the Company from a traditional U.S. media conglomerate into a global digital subscription service, unified by the journalism and brand of Cumbernauld-media.

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