- Around 130,000 Britons over 75 are currently diagnosed with cancer every year
- This is predicted to rise to 234,000 by 2035 because of UK’s ageing population
- Cancer survival rates are lower among older people, who are more likely to be diagnosed in an emergency
The UK is facing a cancer timebomb with cases among the elderly set to soar 80 per cent in the next two decades, experts claim.
Around 130,000 Britons over 75 are currently diagnosed with cancer every year, but this is predicted to rise to 234,000 by 2035 because of the ageing population.
Figures from Cancer Research UK show cases of prostate, lung, breast and bowel cancer are all projected to rise significantly over the coming years, heaping pressure on the NHS.
Around 130,000 Britons over 75 are currently diagnosed with cancer every year (stock image)
The charity’s report highlights the urgent need for older patients to be given better support, as they are more likely to have multiple health conditions or need help from social care.
Despite cancer survival rates doubling over the past 40 years, they are lower among older people who are more likely to be diagnosed in an emergency and less likely to be cured.
Rose Gray, Cancer Research UK’s policy manager, said: ‘If we do nothing, the disparity in care between older and younger cancer patients will only grow. It’s vital to address this.’
For women, breast cancer is set to leap 83 per cent from 13,431 to 25,000 over the same period (mammogram above)
Figures show annual cases of prostate cancer – the most common cancer in men – are set to double from 16,878 to 36,000 by 2035.
For women, breast cancer is set to leap 83 per cent from 13,431 to 25,000 over the same period.
The calculations are based on the rate at which the country’s population is ageing and how common these types of cancer are in older patients.
The UK’s treatment of cancer is already lagging behind other countries. In January, the largest ever study of survival rates put the UK towards the bottom of global league tables for several common cancers, including ovarian, pancreatic and lung.
Other studies suggest 10,000 deaths could be prevented each year if the UK merely hit the European average.
But the disparities in survival rates is even greater in the elderly, with growing evidence that many older women were being overlooked for breast cancer surgery.
The report published today by Cancer Research UK highlights evidence that the gap between the UK’s cancer survival rates and those of the best-performing countries was even worse for older patients.
It found the difference in survival rates for breast cancer patients from Europe and those from the UK and Ireland could largely be accounted for by the deaths of women with cancer aged 75 and over.
And five-year survival rates for bowel cancer patients diagnosed between 2005 and 2007 were 15 per cent lower in UK patients aged 75 and older than the equivalent patients in Canada, it reveals.
Steve Brine, above, said increased funding for the NHS has been announced
Addie Mitchell, clinical nurse specialist at Breast Cancer Care, said last night: ‘The UK’s rapidly aging population risks overwhelming the NHS, so it is fundamental action is taken right now to address this gap in survival rates.’
Cancer Research UK’s report warns that the NHS needs to be prepared for the rises in cancer among the elderly by 2035, with more staff, better assessments, treatments and understanding of how medication affects older patients.
Martin Ledwick, its head information nurse, said: ‘It’s important staff are well trained and resourced so they can assess older people properly and ensure they receive the right treatment, care and support specific to their needs.’
Older patients are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer as an emergency patient, often when their cancer was more advanced and harder to treat.
Between 2006 and 2015, 41 per cent of all cancers in those aged 80-84 were diagnosed in an emergency in England, compared with 14 per cent in those aged 50-59.
Cancer minister Steve Brine said: ‘Just this week the Prime Minister announced increased funding for the NHS and a ten-year plan which will prioritise transforming cancer care – ensuring we can deal with the pressures of a growing ageing population.’