MICHELLE MITCHELL: Hard-won progress in the fight against cancer is slowing… the time to act is now

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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Looking back to the decade I was born, the 1970s, just one in four people in the UK survived their cancer for ten years or more.

Fast forward to now and survival has more than doubled.

But the sad truth is we still have a long way to go. Cancer cases are on the rise and hard-won progress is slowing.

People are waiting too long to be diagnosed and treated, the NHS is under enormous pressure, and the nation’s survival rate is falling behind similar countries.

We’re living in a country that has the potential to set a gold standard for cancer research – but there is much work to do. We need a long-term plan to take us from world-lagging to world-leading.

When Michelle Mitchell, Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK, was born , just one in four people in the UK survived their cancer for ten years or more

In our manifesto, we’ve laid out these exact plans, ‘Longer, better lives’, which if put in place, could help prevent 20,000 cancer deaths every year by 2040. 

Research has been integral to the improvements we have seen so far. Just look at cervical cancer. 

We live in a world where a vaccine – developed through decades of research, clinical trials and NHS screening programmes – has reduced cervical cancer rates by 90 per cent in girls who were first vaccinated in the early 2000s.

It’s possible that we could eliminate this cancer type as a public health problem. But research must be sufficiently funded to make more breakthroughs like this.

We face a funding gap of more than £1billion on cancer research by the end of the next decade, which the Government urgently needs to address.

People are waiting too long to be diagnosed and treated, the NHS is under enormous pressure, and the nation’s survival rate is falling behind similar countries

We live in a world where a vaccine ¿ developed through decades of research, clinical trials and NHS screening programmes ¿ has reduced cervical cancer rates by 90 per cent

We live in a world where a vaccine – developed through decades of research, clinical trials and NHS screening programmes – has reduced cervical cancer rates by 90 per cent 

We also need to ensure that fewer people get cancer in the first place. Smoking remains the biggest cause in the UK, leading to 150 cancer cases every single day. Tobacco is the only legal consumer product that will kill most of its users.

This is why the changes to who can purchase tobacco products are so important. Under the proposed legislation, my own children will never legally be able to buy cigarettes. 

It is exciting to think that the next generation could be saved from a lifetime of ill health and addiction.

Cancer is still the defining health issue of our time. Almost one in two people will develop the disease in their lifetime.

The UK should not accept world-lagging cancer outcomes. We should not accept a real-terms decline in funding. And we should not accept some of the longest waits for tests and treatments in recent history.

Those affected by cancer rightly won’t accept this. Behind every statistic is a mother, a father, a son, a daughter, a family impacted by cancer who are dependent on politicians making the right decisions.

The time to act is now – with political will and leadership, we can all have more moments with the people we love.

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