In just seven years' time almost one out of every two people will be expected to get cancer during their lifetime, a charity has warned.
Macmillan Cancer Support has projected that by 2020, 47% of people in the UK will be diagnosed with the disease.
However, almost four in 10 patients (38%) will not die from it, a spokeswoman said.
The charity warned that the stark rise in the number of people who get, and survive, cancer poses a "herculean" challenge to the NHS.
Experts analysed existing data on cancer prevalence, incidence and mortality and found that the proportion of people who will develop cancer at some point in their lives has increased by more than a third over the past two decades.
In 1992, 32% of people who died that year had been diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives and by 2010, this had risen to 44%.
However, the number who get cancer who don't die from the disease has increased by 67% over the past 20 years - in 1992, around one in five people who had been diagnosed with cancer ultimately died from another cause, and by 2010, this had risen to more than one in three.
Would you know if you had cancer?
A lump or swelling anywhere on your body needs checking out
AXA’s research found that 79% of people were able to correctly identify breast lumps as a potential indicator of cancer. But a lump or swelling in any part of the body, including the armpit, neck, abdomen, groin or chest area, is worth having checked by a doctor.
Talk about your toilet habits
Diarrhoea or changes in bowel habits are most likely to be caused by a stomach bug or eating something that disagrees with you. But if you’re noticing changes that have lasted more than a few days, for example if your bowel movements are looser for three weeks or more, or you notice any blood when you’ve been to the toilet, then make an appointment to get it checked out.
Sores and ulcers should disappear quickly – investigate them if they don’t
A lot of people get mouth ulcers when their immune system is low or they’re stressed. Generally they’re nothing to worry about and, as the lining of the mouth regenerates itself every couple of weeks, shouldn’t last long. But any ulcer that hasn’t healed after three weeks merits attention from your doctor or dentist. The same goes for any sore or spot that lasts for several weeks without healing – get it checked by a doctor.
Difficult passing urine – not just an inevitable consequence of age
Many men find it more difficult to pass urine as they get older, needing to go more often or urgently or being unable to go when they need to. These problems are usually caused by an enlarged prostate, which is a common condition that is not in itself cause for concern. But occasionally these symptoms can be a sign of prostate cancer – either way, men experiencing these symptoms should see their GP. Similarly, while urinary tract infections are the most likely cause of women having pain or difficulty passing urine, this should pass relatively quickly. If it doesn’t, then any sudden urges to pass urine or the need to go more often should be discussed with your doctor.
Lost weight without dieting?
It’s natural for most people’s weight to fluctuate over time. But if you haven’t instigated any changes in your diet or exercise regime and have obviously lost weight, then talk to your doctor. And if you’re experiencing heavy night sweats you should seek medical advice – these don’t always have a sinister cause, and can be brought about by certain infections or medications, but they’re worth checking.
Coughing up blood needs to be checked out
If you’ve coughed up any blood, you should see your doctor, regardless of the amount of blood or frequency. It can be a sign of lung cancer, so needs to be checked out.
Coughs and sore throats
Most of us will experience coughs or croaky voices at some point, normally when we’ve had a cold. But as with many other changes to your body, anything that hasn’t gone away after three weeks or so should be investigated.
Educate yourself on what to look out for
AXA’s research found women were more likely than men to identify key cancer warning signs, including breast lumps, changes in bowel habits and irregular moles. But for both men and women, ensuring you’re aware of symptoms to keep an eye out for is important. Knowledge is power: understanding what you’re looking for means you can any changes checked out quickly.
Know your own body
AXA’s research found only 6% of men and 3% of women check their bodies daily for anything unusual. But understanding what’s normal for your own body is essential if you’re to spot when anything has changed. If you do notice changes that are persisting for a long time, or causing you pain and discomfort, then see your GP.
Don’t put off seeing the doctor!
A sizeable 61% of people AXA spoke to admitted they’d delayed seeing their doctor when they spotted changes that could be potential flags for cancer. But early detection of any problems can make a huge difference if any treatment is then needed. Similarly, if changes are harmless your doctor will be able to reassure you. Overall, the sooner you go to see your GP, the better.
The charity said that though the survival trend is "encouraging", there is growing evidence that many cancer patients do not return to full health after treatments and the serious side effects of the disease.
"That we live longer as a nation, and that we are improving cancer treatment, are things to celebrate," said Macmillan Cancer Support's chief medical officer Professor Jane Maher.
"We do, however, need to add a serious note of caution: the more successful we are with treatment and cure, the more people we have living with the long-term effects of cancer and its treatment.
"Many patients can be left with physical health and emotional problems long after treatment has ended. People struggle with fatigue, pain, immobility, or an array of other troublesome side-effects.
"We need to manage these consequences for the sake of the patient, but also for the sake of the taxpayer. We should plan to have more services to help people stay well at home, rather than waiting until they need hospital treatment."
Charity chief executive Ciaran Devane added: "Because of the progress in healthcare - ironically largely for conditions other than cancer - in only seven years time nearly half the population will get cancer in their lifetime. This poses a herculean challenge for the NHS and for society.
"The NHS will not be able to cope with the huge increase in demand for cancer services without a fundamental shift towards proper after-care, without more care delivered in the community, and without engaging cancer patients in their own health. Until then, the help and support that organisations like Macmillan provide will become even more urgent and important to ensure no one faces cancer alone."
NHS England's national clinical director for cancer Sean Duffy added: "We welcome this report from Macmillan Cancer Support and the recognition that more and more people are surviving cancer.
"The Department of Health has set the NHS the challenge of saving an additional 5,000 lives a year by 2014-15 and we remain committed to working to achieve this."
Royal College of GPs and Cancer Research UK clinical lead for cancer, Professor Greg Rubin from the Royal College of General Practitioners, said: "This is welcome evidence that people are increasingly likely to survive cancer but a powerful reminder that survivors have complex needs that health services, particularly in primary care, will need to respond to.
"The key implications for general practice are to develop our expertise in providing care for this group of patients and to increase GP capacity to meet the additional demand."