Health

Cancer diagnosis rate of 1,000 per day to 'push NHS to limit'

Chest x-ray showing a suspected tumour Image copyright SPL

The NHS will be "pushed to its limit" by the end of 2016 by rising numbers of cancer patients, a charity says.

By then, every day would see another 1,000 people diagnosed, Macmillan said, meaning about 361,000 - equivalent to the population of Cardiff - would be living with the disease.

An ageing population and NHS cutbacks would stretch cancer care to breaking point, it added.

The Department of Health said it had invested £750m in cancer care.

'Cracks in the NHS'

"Cracks in the NHS are already beginning to show," said Macmillan Cancer Support chief executive Lynda Thomas.

"Whichever party is voted in at next year's election, they will face a colossal challenge to make sure the NHS is ready to support the wave of people who will be diagnosed with cancer during their time in power," she said.

The number of English NHS trusts missing the target for access to cancer treatment waiting times had doubled in 2014, the charity added.

The NHS was under pressure in part due to funding cutbacks, the charity said.

"It's very difficult for the NHS at the moment," Macmillan Cancer Support director for England, policy and research Dr Fran Woodard told the BBC.

"At a time when the number of people being diagnosed with cancer is growing rapidly, real-term spending on cancer services decreased by [£200m] between 2009-10 and 2012-13," she said.

"On top of this, the NHS is dealing with the biggest reforms in its history and hospitals are struggling to cut costs without damaging patient care," she added.

Survival rates

The Department of Health said that survival rates for some forms of cancer had improved, citing official figures.

In 2011 it had invested £750m funding over five years to improve diagnosis and care, including giving GPs better access to tests, it added.

"Having inherited some of the worst cancer survival rates in Europe, this government is making good progress towards our ambition to become the best - we're referring 51% more patients for cancer treatment than 2010, and have invested [£750m] in better early diagnosis and treatment," a spokesman for the department said.

The number of cancer patients undergoing treatment had increased by 15% since 2010, the department said.

In April 2014, there were 1.5 million diagnostic tests for cancer, compared with 1.2 million in April 2010, it added.

Mortality

According to the latest government figures, the disease that caused the most deaths in England and Wales in 2013 was cancer, closely followed by heart disease and strokes.

Cancer accounted for 29% of all deaths in the UK last year, while circulatory diseases caused 28% of deaths.

According to cancer charity Cancer Research UK, the most common forms of cancer are lung, bowel, breast and prostate.

Lung cancer is by far the most common, with smoking being a major cause of the disease, the charity says.

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