Large majorities of people diagnosed with some of the most common cancers can now expect to live for at least 10 years, according to the latest estimates drawn up by government statisticians.
Those who develop skin cancer are the most likely to still be alive a decade after their diagnosis, with 89.4% of sufferers able to expect this lifespan, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
More than four in five (80.6%) women diagnosed with breast cancer, the most common form of cancer in females, should also survive for 10 years, given the gradual upward trend in survival, the ONS said.
Anticipated 10-year survival is almost as high for those with prostate cancer, the most common cancer among men. As many as 79.9% of those diagnosed with it can expect to still be alive after such a period.
Only 5.7% of those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer will live that long, as will only 9.8% of people who develop lung cancer and 11.9% of those with brain cancer.
The figures are part of calculations the ONS made for the first time that project how many people diagnosed with certain forms of cancer in 2015 are expected to survive for a decade. They estimate future survival rather than capturing the number of years cancer patients have already lived since diagnosis. They are based on all those diagnosed with the disease regardless of at what stage their cancer was identified.
The figures come as evidence continues to suggest that new drugs, better treatments and earlier diagnosis of the disease are helping to sustain the gradual increase in survival of some, but not other, cancer types. For example, 96.4% of women diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009-13 lived for at least a year, while 86.7% survived for five years – the largest numbers on record.
For men, survival rates at one year and five years are highest for those with testicular cancer. Women diagnosed with melanoma of the skin have the best chance of the same highest one-year and five-year outcomes.
“Cancer survival is improving and has doubled over the last 40 years. For a number of cancers, including breast and skin cancer, more than eight out of 10 people will survive their disease,” said Rebecca Smittenaar, Cancer Research UK’s statistics manager. “Research has led to better treatments, new drugs, more accurate tests, earlier diagnosis and screening programmes, giving patients a better chance of survival,” she added.
For example, one-year survival for breast cancer has crept up from 95% for those diagnosed in 2007-11 to 96.4% of those who developed it in 2009-13, while five-year survival rose over the same period from 85% to 86.7%.
But Cancer Research UK is concerned that survival remains stubbornly low for some cancers, including lung, pancreatic and oesophageal forms of the disease and brain tumours. That is mainly because they are often diagnosed too late for treatment to be effective, experts say.
Lynda Thomas, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “Surviving is not necessarily the same as living well, and too many people with cancer miss out on the support they badly need once treatment has finished.
“While today’s figures are to be celebrated, they should also act as a warning that as the number of long-term survivors increases, we will need a health service that is able to cope with this increasingly complex situation.”
David Crosby, director of services and engagement at Breast Cancer Care, said: “These extra years of life mean more precious time with loved ones, as well as the ability to continue to work and contribute to society.
“However, readjusting to life after the rollercoaster of breast cancer treatment can be the most traumatic time, for some even harder than the diagnosis itself. They may be struggling with body image or learning to cope with long-term effects of treatment, such as fatigue or painful joints, and living every day with the fear of the cancer returning or spreading.”