England’s cancer strategy has to start addressing less survivable cancers

Posted on: 22nd February 2018

The British Liver Trust has joined forces with 5 other charities to ask for the new  Cancer Strategy to address liver cancer and other ‘less survivable cancers’.

Ahead of a debate in the House of Commons today (Thursday, 22nd February) on the progress of NHS England’s Achieving World-Class Cancer Outcomes: A Strategy for England 2015-2020, the Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce is calling for urgent action to improve the chances of surviving liver, pancreatic, brain, lung, oesophageal and stomach cancer.

People with these forms of cancer in England are almost five times less likely to survive beyond five years, compared with patients with one of the 14 more survivable cancers. The six less survivable cancers combined cause almost half of all cancer deaths each year, causing close to 70,000 deaths.

The Taskforce, which is made up of the British Liver Trust, Pancreatic Cancer UK, The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, The Brain Tumour Charity, Action Against Heartburn and Core, is now calling for the Cancer Strategy to ensure that the prognosis of these six cancers improves so that patients can live for longer.

Vanessa Hebditch, Director of Policy and Communications at the British Liver Trust said: “It is very concerning that someone diagnosed with one of these six cancers – pancreatic, liver, brain, lung, oesophageal and stomach – has, on average, just a 14% chance of living beyond five years after their cancer is detected. Now is the time to take action to transform the future for patients with these cancers and their families. We must look to the breast cancer and prostate cancer movements, and emulate their incredible successes in increasing research funding, and improving diagnosis and treatment.”

Anna Jewell, chair of the Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce, said: “Since the Cancer Strategy was introduced, we simply have not seen the progress for the less survivable cancers which we need. While survival for cancers overall is improving, we must all face the fact that at the same time, still just 38 per cent of people with these six cancers will survive beyond a year, compared with 84 per cent of patients with the more survivable cancers. Currently people with these six cancers simply do not have a fair chance of survival.

“We must now see a target for improving the survival of these cancers included in the Cancer Strategy – and to then achieve this target we must also see a far more focused plan for how to bring about change for people with the less survivable cancers. The Government must ensure that Cancer Alliances prioritise these cancers and introduce practices into their care pathways that will help improve survival and care. People with these six cancers deserve to live for longer, and we must now see decisive action which will transform the prognosis of these long-neglected cancers and change the future for everyone affected by them. Making this happen must become a priority today.”

The charities joined forces as the Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce last July, united in their determination to give patients with the six cancers a fair chance of living for longer. Find out more about their work here