A patient diagnosed with cancer today has a 50 per cent chance of living for another 10 years according to Cancer Research UK (CRUK). While survival rates vary between different types of cancer, this headline figure represents a great triumph for human knowledge, endeavour and health.
To put this in perspective: in 1971-72, 50 per cent of cancer patients survived less than a year. To have the same proportion now surviving at least 10 years is no small feat in a little over 40 years. This dramatic improvement has been achieved due to great leaps forward in the sophistication and effectiveness of available cancer treatments.
What is even more encouraging is that Cancer Research UK is now aiming higher. CRUK wants to see the 10-year survival rate increase to 75 per cent within the next 20 years. You could be forgiven for being shocked at hearing a charity talk in such outlandishly ambitious terms. At a time when more and more charities and organisations seek only to ‘raise awareness’, which usually involves miserably informing us of the myriad ways we are killing ourselves in our modern lives (a tendency which CRUK is not immune to), the ambition to do something about actually treating people stands out.
Cancer researchers across the UK should stand up and take a bow. That 50 per cent of cancer patients can now expect to live for up to 10 years after contracting cancer is a testament to our uniquely human ability to push back against unfeeling nature. Ridding ourselves of cancer once and for all is surely no longer a matter of if but when.
Charlie Pearson is a writer based in London.