More than 170,000 people in the UK who were diagnosed with cancer in the 1970s and ‘80s are still alive, according to a new report.
Macmillan Cancer Support said that people are twice as likely to live at least 10 years after being diagnosed with the disease, than they were 40 years ago.
The increase is due to better treatments combined with an ageing population.
The charity warned that while these figures are “extraordinary”, they are likely to put a bigger strain on the NHS, as more people are living longer with long-term side effects.
Macmillan chief executive Lynda Thomas said: “What we are now seeing is that lot of people are coming in and out of treatment, so all of that does put pressure on the NHS.”
It is estimated that 625,000 people in the UK face poor health or disability after treatment for cancer and 42,500 people who were diagnosed with cancer in the 1970s and 1980s may still be dealing with long-term consequences.
Greig Trout suffered from cancer as a child. He later developed scoliosis, deep vein thrombosis and eczema and, as a result, he struggles to put on muscle or fat in his upper body, has physiotherapy for his back and takes blood thinning pills every day.
Doctors believe his second bout of cancer, diagnosed when he was 30, could be a result of the radiation therapy he received more than 20 years ago.
The 37-year-old from south-west London, said: “The life-saving treatment I had as a child has come back to bite me in the future, but I’m still here.
“It would be good for [GPs], especially now with people who are struggling with side-effects of treatment back in the 80s, just to know and be more aware of what those side-effects are.
“Developments of cancer treatment are just getting better and better so I hope that more people don’t have to go through what I’ve been through as a child. I’m just trying to enjoy every day as it comes and just grateful to be here.”
According to the new report ‘Cancer Then and Now’, the number of people living with cancer in the UK is set to grow from 2.5 million people to four million by 2030, meaning more people will need support.
“About one in four cancer patients will come out of cancer treatment with really, really debilitating and very serious side-effects,” Macmillan chief executive Lynda Thomas said according to the Press Association.
“And they can be things like incontinence, or experiencing serious sexual problems, and those are the things we tend not to talk about but they can be the things that really result in people having a very poor life experience after their cancer diagnosis.”
She added that medical professionals need to “keep up to speed” with the potential side-effects as new treatments emerge.
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The report said that last year, roughly 116,000 cancer patients in England did not have the potential long-term side effects from their cancer fully explained to them.
“It does happen from time to time we will meet patients who’ve said ‘I had no idea this was going to happen’, I hope that’s happening less and less now, particularly as professionals become better at explaining the consequences of treatment,” said Thomas.
“But it’s important people recognise that issues such as fertility might be affected, or you might have heart problems later on in life.
“You never want to somebody to say ‘I wish I’d known that before because I would have done something different’.”
In response to the report’s findings, health secretary Jeremy Hunt told the BBC: “The fact that more people are surviving cancer is excellent news, due in no small part to the work of NHS staff who carry out the diagnosis, treatment and care to help patients beat the disease.
“To help, we announced last year that by 2020 people diagnosed with cancer in England will benefit from an individually tailored recovery package. This was originally developed by Macmillan Cancer Support, and I would like to pay tribute to the charity’s enormous effort in this area over many years.”