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Cancer strategy 'could save 30,000 lives'

22 July 2015 10:52

Ways to improve cancer care have been outlined by an independent taskforce

Ways to improve cancer care have been outlined by an independent taskforce

A 'radical' shake-up of how cancer is diagnosed and treated could save 30,000 lives a year, NHS England claims.

A report by the Independent Cancer Taskforce has recommended a number of targets for the health service to achieve by 2020 to improve cancer care, including public health prevention measures and upgrading outdated equipment.

Half the population will develop cancer at some point in their lives.

In 2013/14, some 280,000 people in England were diagnosed with the disease, and this is expected to reach more than 300,000 by 2020, and more than 360,000 by 2030.

Although cancer cases are rising, survival rates are also increasing every year, and more people are now living with cancer.

In fact, quality of life can still be good, and many people are able to enjoy holidays abroad thanks to cancer travel insurance.

Links to lifestyle factors

Some cancers are preventable, with more than four in 10 cases caused by aspects of people's lifestyles that they are able to change, the report says.

Nearly one in five adults still smoke, while a third drink too much alcohol.

Tobacco is the main risk factor for cancer, followed by obesity.

The taskforce, which was set up by NHS England in January to develop the next cancer strategy, is urging the Government to devise a new tobacco control plan within the next 12 months, as well as a national action plan to tackle obesity.

It wants to see the percentage of the population smoking reduced to 13% by 2020, from the 18.4% it is now.

'Equipment outdated'

The report outlines how patients' experiences can be improved, both during and after treatment.

It calls for investment in up-to-date and effective equipment and treatments, including radiotherapy machines, which is not currently happening.

At present, 38% of cancer patients in England receive radiotherapy, which is the second most effective way of treating the disease, behind surgery.

But international benchmarks suggest this should be closer to 50%.

The taskforce also wants to see a "permanent and sustainable" model for the Cancer Drugs Fund, which has helped more than 72,000 cancer patients in England access drugs that do not have official approval.