17,000 stage 4 cancer patients beating odds to live on for years

08 November 2017 09:11

The data sparks hope that stage 4 cancer can be managed like other chronic illnesses

The data sparks hope that stage 4 cancer can be managed like other chronic illnesses

Thousands of patients diagnosed with advanced terminal cancer are defying odds and living on for several years, research by a charity has found.

According to analysis by Macmillan Cancer Support, in 2015 more than 17,000 stage 4 cancer patients were still alive, even though they had been given a gloomy prognosis at least two years before.

Adrienne Betteley, Macmillan Cancer Support's specialist adviser for end of life care, says the new figures are "positive news" for those with advanced cancer.

She said: "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."

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Ground-breaking analysis

The charity has analysed National Cancer Registration data from Public Health England. This is the first study to track survival rates of stage 4 patients.

The last-stage diagnosis is commonly associated with low rates of recovery and limited options for treatment.

However, this new data will spark hope that the condition can be "treatable and manageable, like other chronic illnesses", the charity has said.

Managing symptoms

Although the figures suggest a more optimistic outlook for those with an advanced prognosis, Ms Betteley says

living with advanced cancer is a difficult situation to be in.

Those with the disease must learn to manage physical symptoms, as well as dealing with multiple hospital appointments and the psychological impact of an uncertain future

She added: "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."

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