180,000 Brits Have Had To Wait Too Long For Cancer Support

More than 180,000 people in the UK have waited an excessive amount of time for cancer support, including tests and treatments, over the last decade. 

According to analysis from charity Macmillan Cancer Support, the government’s failure to meet targets has put hundreds of thousands of people’s lives at risk. 

Chief executive officer at the organisation Gemma Peters stated: “Cancer care is in crisis after years of governments failing to act.”

She added: “Every single person who has faced a worse outcome from their cancer diagnosis because of delays will know the devastating impact that waiting has had on their lives.”

For some, this includes learning their cancer has become incurable due to the delays, which Ms Peters describes as being “categorically unacceptable and entirely avoidable”. 

Macmillan Cancer Support’s new campaign called “What Are We Waiting For?” is calling for the government to speed up cancer diagnosis and treatment, after revealing failures to meet waiting time targets and to support NHS cancer services. 

The findings also reported that more than 100,000 people have had to face their cancer progressing due to the delays over the last ten years, or have been left with fewer options when it comes to their treatments. 

The charity now wants the government to increase funding to deliver integrated care, provide local NHS services with more money, create additional jobs, such as care coordinators, and invest in preventive and rehabilitative measures. 

It hopes additional finance will ensure “everyone, everywhere gets the potentially life-saving cancer care they desperately need, on time”. 

This comes after April 2023’s Cancer Waiting Times data for England was published. It revealed nearly 50,000 people in April alone waited over a fortnight to see a specialist after being given an urgent GP referral.

This represents the lowest performance for its two-week referral target for six months. 

What’s more, over 5,000 people with cancer in England had to wait more than two months to begin their treatment. This is worse than the previous month and performance was lower than in 2021 and early 2022. 

In fact, all cancer waiting targets in England failed to be met in April, and performance in each area was worse than the preceding month. 

At the same time, the NHS reported the number of people with cancer who are still waiting for treatment after two months following their urgent referral rose to over 3,000 for the last three weeks of April. 

Minesh Patel, head of policy at Macmillan Cancer Support, commented on the data, saying the public is continuing to be “let down by a system that simply cannot cope”. 

He noted that thousands of people have to face long delays for both their diagnosis and treatment, which not only causes lots of anxiety to the patients and the families, but puts their lives at risk. 

To avoid having to wait weeks for a diagnosis, people who have suspicious symptoms should book a Sheffield oncology appointment as soon as possible to find out what they are dealing with.

What Is The Hug-In-A-Bag Initiative?

When someone receives a cancer diagnosis, it can change their entire world in an instant and lead not only to fear but also isolation and confusion about what comes next.

Everything during this initial diagnosis from the urgent referral and arrangement for private oncology treatment can feel worrying, strange and almost unreal at times, and it is difficult to know what to think or how to prepare for that first treatment.

This was particularly true for many people facing their first treatment session in the first part of the 2020s, as due to public health restrictions people could not bring a member of their support network with them such as a friend, partner, or member of their family.

This is what inspired the Hug-In-A-Bag initiative to help to provide hope and care, as well as ensure that no one faces cancer alone.


Comfort And Practicality

There are a lot of hugs-in-a-bag initiatives up and down the country, but the main principle of all of them is the same.

They are a bag given to someone after they are diagnosed with cancer but before their first treatment session, whether it takes the form of chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery, as this is the point where in most cases the worry peaks.

The bag, and often a literal hug that goes along with it, helps people know that they are not alone when they fight cancer, and they have not only their support network but many people they do not know in their corner.

What is actually contained within the bags can vary between the different charities that run a hug-in-a-bag initiative, typically the items are identical per bag (with variations for bags for men and those for women) and contain a mix of practical items and luxury comforts.

The former are the types of items a lot of people need or at least would like to have at their first treatment session to make it a little easier, particularly if you need to spend time in a hospital, but would not even think to bring.

These include a card with information and contacts, a water bottle, a pen and notepad for journaling your thoughts, moisturiser, tissues and a travel bag for toiletries.

There are also items that are important but are not always thought about, such as a scarf for helping with the sudden temperature drops that can be felt after chemotherapy, and nail varnish to help hide discolorations in nails that can also be a side-effect.

It also contains a lot of items to help bring comfort, including a small teddy bear, bubble bath, soap, a candle, a set of cards as well as specific gifts for men and women.

Men receive shaving cream, a shaving brush and a shower brush, whilst women get a cushion, foot lotion, body oil, a mirror, a nail file and lip balm.

Initially, they were supplied via referral but many organisations quickly set up agreements with local hospitals and clinics to ensure there was a supply of them to be given to patients directly, for as long as donations and supply would allow.

Why More People With Breast Cancer Are Living Longer Lives

With advances in private oncology and more widespread screening programmes, more people are being tested for cancer than ever before, people are being diagnosed earlier and their chances of survival are significantly higher.

According to a long-term study published by the British Medical Journal, the risk of death within five years of being diagnosed with breast cancer has reduced by over two-thirds over the past 20 years, from 14.4 per cent to 4.9 per cent.

Moreover, for the vast majority of people who are diagnosed early and thus have a relatively low-grade HER2-negative tumour, that chance plummets to just 0.2 per cent, providing hope for so many more women who have been diagnosed.

The paper is the first long-term cancer study of its type that has an extended follow-up period, and is not only positive news in its own right, but can be used as an accurate tool for cancer prognosis.

Here are just some of the reasons why people diagnosed with cancer are living longer lives and are more likely to live longer.


Wider Breast Screening Programmes

The paper compares survival rates from 1993 to 1998 and from 2010 to 2015 in terms of survival rates after five years, and in that intervening time, a lot has changed in the world of oncology, but arguably the biggest shift is in more proactive approaches to screening and greater education of the signs of cancer.

The earlier a cancerous lesion or tumour is discovered, the easier it is to treat and the greater the long-term outcomes, so a wider screening programme will allow more people to start treatment earlier and be cancer-free as a result.


Improved Radiotherapy Treatments

Radiotherapy has been an option for people with cancer for decades, but advances in both technology and methodological approaches have meant that there are far more effective treatments which can be undertaken with fewer side effects.

Treatments such as intrabeam radiotherapy, which uses low-energy radiation to directly target a tumour bed during breast cancer surgery, are highly effective and provide greater options for patients.

Not only are these treatments more effective but they are also more widely available for patients, ensuring they can receive potentially lifesaving or life-prolonging treatment when previously it was not an option.


Greater Range Of Cancer Drugs

Besides a greater range of chemotherapy drugs that can help remove any traces of cancer from the body, there are also a wider variety of medical treatments available, including targeted therapies that can fundamentally stop cancer cells from spreading and growing.

In 1993, few target therapies were known of, even fewer were available and none had been approved for use on the NHS at that point until the more widespread approval of imatinib in the early 2000s.

Whilst not every type of cancer can currently be treated through targeted therapy, each year brings with it a greater array of cancer treatments and with that a renewed hope that more people with breast cancer can have as broad a range of treatment options as possible.

600,000 Urgent Care Referrals Not Seen Within Two Weeks

Urgent care referrals made through the NHS should be seen within two weeks. However, analysis of figures has shown 600,000 have had to wait longer than this. 

Sky News reported that 2.8 million people in England were given an urgent care referral from the GP to see a cancer specialist in the last year.

Although this should not take more than a fortnight to go through, over half a million were left waiting longer than two weeks, which is 13 times the figure from 2010. 

Additionally, 100,000 patients have waited over a month to begin cancer treatment this year, which is seven times greater than 13 years ago. This figure has also tripled in the last three years alone. 

When it comes to starting surgery, 113,000 people waited over a month in the past year. This represents a 7.5 increase since 2010, and is more than twice as many before the pandemic. 

It is essential that people with suspected cancer are seen as soon as possible, and if necessary, given treatment at the earliest opportunity. 

According to the British Medical Journal, the risk of death from cancer can increase by one-tenth for every month treatment is postponed, which is not odds patients want to play with. 

The Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) is blaming shortage of NHS doctors for the delays, with vice president Dr Tom Roques telling the publication: “Demand is growing, and the oncology workforce needs to grow too if we want to give patients the care they deserve.”

He noted that an ageing population means more people are getting cancer in their old age, while people with cancer are living longer, but may require more complex treatments as time goes on. 

The group warned the government that the NHS will have a “40 per cent shortfall of radiologists by 2027”. This is an increase of 11 per cent from the current status.

There will also be a 25 per cent shortfall in clinical oncologists by then, an increase from 15 per cent. 

The British Medical Association (BMA) recently reported the UK has a shortage of doctors compared with other countries. The average number of clinicians per 1,000 people in OECD EU nations is 3.7 and is as high as 4.3 in Germany. However, this falls to 2.9 in England. 

It stated England would need 46,300 additional full-time doctors to reach the OECD EU average. 

There are also areas of the country with a disproportionately low number of doctors. For instance, there are only 4,000 doctors in the Midlands and the north-west of England, despite a population of over 3.5 million people. 

Among the reasons for staff shortages are rising stress levels among medical staff, particularly following Covid-19.

“Since the start of the pandemic, doctors have been left feeling increasingly depressed, anxious, stressed or burnt out as a result of their work or study,” the organisation stated. 

Additionally, doctors are ageing with fewer new clinicians coming into the profession, and many are retiring early due to their high stress levels. Therefore, there are not enough people training to be doctors to counterbalance those leaving. 

To ensure you get checked out as soon as possible, more people are opting for a Sheffield oncology diagnosis instead of enduring long waiting times on the NHS.


Maintaining Emotional Well-Being When Living With Cancer

Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be incredibly upsetting and difficult to deal with, however, there are many treatment options and pathways which can help you to manage and treat the disease.

Focussing on your mental health throughout this can help to ensure you are in a good headspace and can help you to develop coping mechanisms which can assist in navigating the challenges that come with your cancer journey.

Strength and resilience are important in helping you to remain positive and hopeful throughout your treatment and can also help to maintain some normalcy in your life throughout the process.

One of the best ways to maintain your emotional wellbeing is to surround yourself with a positive support system. Whether this is family and friends or a network you build through support groups, having people around you to provide emotional support can be a huge help.

It is also very useful to talk to people who are going through or have been through similar experiences as it can put your own journey and experiences into perspective and allow you to gain a different outlook on your diagnosis.

Being open, honest and expressing your thoughts and feelings instead of bottling them up is also crucial for your emotional well-being. Those around you are there to listen and communication can give you the validation and strength to better cope with your anxieties and fears.

Remember to practise self-care. Spend time doing activities which bring you joy and happiness. This can be a great distraction and also helps you to maintain structure and normalcy which can aid in ensuring you are relaxed and calm.

Spending time caring for your mental health can also help to reduce stress. Dealing with cancer can be stressful and this can take a toll on both your mental and physical health, so any way to alleviate this will be beneficial for you.

Looking for a private oncology clinic? Get in touch with us today.

Scientists Say Early Prostate Cancer Could Be Reclassified

Experts are calling to reclassify early-stage prostate cancer as ‘pre-cancer’, reassuring sufferers that treatment does not need to occur until the tumour begins to spread.

The Mail on Sunday has reported that 90 per cent of those newly diagnosed with prostate cancer are simply monitored to ensure their condition does not worsen.

Regular blood tests are taken instead, and treatment is only started when results appear worrying. The reason medical physicians often delay it for patients who have recently received their diagnosis is due to the adverse symptoms that can occur with either surgery or radiotherapy.

Although recent research has shown survival rates for those who receive regular monitoring and delay treatment is the same as those who undergo more severe therapies, one-tenth of men say they would opt for the more invasive options.

Therefore, by reclassifying early-stage prostate cancer to ‘pre-cancer’, this could reassure patients who would otherwise panic if they do not have treatment as soon as possible, despite evidence showing it can take many years before the cancer begins to spread.

A prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test can be given to those who are over 50 or are exhibiting symptoms of prostate cancer.

These signs include difficulty starting to urinate, trouble emptying the bladder, pain or burning when passing fluid, blood in the urine, pain in the back, hip or pelvis, painful ejaculation, or a weak flow of urine.

If the PSA test detects symptoms of prostate cancer, the patient can then undergo scans and a biopsy, the results of which will be able to confirm a diagnosis.

These can also inform medical experts on how large the tumour is, the rate at which it is growing, and how much it has already spread.

Patients who are at high risk, depending on the results of these tests, undergo treatment as soon as possible, whereas those who are low risk are monitored.

Prostate cancer is currently the most common cancer in men in the UK, with one in six males getting it in their lifetimes.

Those who are at high risk include men aged between 75 and 79 years old, obese or Black men, and people who have had a close family member with it.

Artificial intelligence (AI) could remove be used in the future to diagnose prostate cancer earlier, giving more men a better chance of survival. Digitising glass slides from biopsies could mean pathologists from all over the country are able to examine them, making diagnosis faster.

Whether patients are then giving a cancer or ‘pre-cancer’ diagnosis after prostate cancer cells are detected will determine the follow-up care they receive.

To find out more about our Sheffield cancer treatments when it comes to prostate cancer diagnosis, give us a call today.

Medical Terminology You May Encounter During Cancer Treatment

Diagnosis and treatment of cancer can be a difficult and scary time and there are many areas of uncertainty which can make it even harder to cope.

With any medical condition, the terminology used by doctors can sometimes make it even harder to understand what is going on which can make it more unsettling. Medical terminology will be used whether you receive treatment from the NHS or through a private oncologist.

However, there are many common terms which are easy to understand which can make your treatment journey a bit easier. These words are often used by medical professionals who may sometimes assume you already know their meaning and may not elaborate unless you ask.

One common term used when diagnosing and treating cancer is malignant. This is just another word for cancerous and will be used when discussing the cancer cells, where they are and where they are spreading.

Although malignant may sound like a scary medical term, it is just used interchangeably with cancer or cancerous and therefore if a medical professional uses this term during your treatment, it isn’t cause for additional concern or worry.

Benign, on the other hand, is a term used when describing a tumour, growth or cells which are not cancerous. Again, this word might sound confusing or scary, but it is actually quite the opposite and shows an absence of cancerous cells.

Metastatic is used when referring to the spread of cancer. This is usually used when discussing stage 4 cancer and is used to describe cancerous cells which have spread, or metastasised.

This may also be referred to as secondary cancer. This term is used if cancer has spread from where it started to another area of the body. For example, if a cancerous growth begins in the breast and moves into the lymph nodes, this would be known as secondary cancer.

Primary cancer, therefore, refers to where the cancer originally started. Regardless of where cancer spreads to or how far travels it will usually still be referred to by the place it was first found.

Prognosis is a term used across the medical field for a range of issues which simply refers to the likely course or outcome of a condition and its treatment. This includes how it will progress, develop and how the treatment is likely to work out.

The grade of cancer is a scale used to determine the speed of growth of cancerous cells. This ranges from one to three, one being cancerous cells which look normal and aren’t growing or multiplying rapidly, three being cancerous cells which appear abnormal and are fast spreading.

The grade should not be confused with the stage when referring to cancer as they have entirely different meanings and could cause confusion.

The stage refers to the size of the cancer and how far it has spread, regardless of how fast it has done so. This is described on a scale from zero to four, zero being cancer which hasn’t spread at all, four being cancer which is metastatic cancer and has spread to other areas.

Red Flag Symptoms May Speed Bowel Cancer Diagnosis

A potential breakthrough has emerged in the diagnosis of bowel cancer, which may enable people seeking private cancer treatment to have the disease detected and treated at a much earlier stage.

Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis have identified four specific symptoms that they describe as ‘red flags’ for the early onset of colorectal cancer.

The symptoms in question are abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, diarrhoea and iron deficiency anaemia. Each of these was shown to be an indicator of a greater likelihood of developing the disease in patients under the age of 50. Even one of these symptoms indicated double the risk, whereas three or more made it 6.5 times higher than average.

Details of the research were published in the May 4th edition of the National Cancer Institute.

Senior investigator Yin Cao said it is important to understand that colorectal cancer is not just a disease affecting older people and it is important for younger adults ”to be aware of and act on these potentially very telling signs and symptoms.”

This is “particularly because people under 50 are considered to be at low risk, and they don’t receive routine colorectal cancer screening”, he continued.

He added that there also needs to be more awareness of the risk among medical professionals, commenting: “To date, many early-onset colorectal cancers are detected in emergency rooms, and there often are significant diagnostic delays with this cancer.”

Britons may have benefitted from the efforts to raise awareness of bowel cancer from younger patients affected by the disease, such as the late Dame Deborah James, who died in 2022 at the age of 40.

She hosted the ‘You, me and the Big C’ podcast after her diagnosis in 2016 and set up the Bowelbabe fund to carry out studies into the disease. In doing so she helped raise awareness of potential symptoms as well as money for research.

Scientists Create A Cancer Protein-Busting Compound

There are many effective cancer treatments that can make a huge difference to your life, either by extending it or defeating your cancer outright. But the world of cancer research never stands still and potential new treatments are emerging all the time.

Among these is a new development emerging from the Institute for Cancer Research (ICR). It has announced the successful creation by its scientists of a new compound that can break down cancer-causing proteins.

Described by the ICR as a “molecular glue-type degrader”, the compound has the potential to be developed into a cancer drug that could neutralise the proteins that cause cancers like B-cell lymphoma.

The work focused on the fact that cells have their own natural system for disposing of cells that cause disease. However, this system does not always have the compounds it needs to fight against all proteins, in particular some that can cause cancer.

What this project did was see the creation of just such a compound that selectively sticks to a protein known as BCL6, which is essential for B-cell lymphoma cells to survive. The protein works by binding to DNA and regulating the genes that cause cells to divide or die; so by inhibiting it, the causal sequence that enables cancer to develop can be halted or at least slowed down.

Having already discovered some compounds that could inhibit BCL6 proteins, the researchers found that some they had created could go further and actually degrade them. Experiments in mice showed this could greatly slow the development of tumours.

While the effects were modest, researchers said they did indicate that this compound plus other inhibitor drugs could be very effective as a therapy against B-cell lymphoma.

Head of chemistry at the IR Professor Swen Hoelder said: “I’m pleased to announce the discovery of our new molecular glue-type degrader of BCL6 in this new study, which is also a great example of creative science in a cutting-edge, innovative field in cancer drug discovery.”

As well as potentially leading to the development of anti-cancer drugs, the discovery could also help increase understanding of the biology of BCL6 proteins, which may help with the development of other treatments.

The studies, partly funded by Cancer Research UK, were published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

As ever with this kind of development, more research may be needed and work undertaken to trial new drugs that are developed, especially in human trials to show that the promising results revealed by animal experimentation can be replicated in homo sapiens.

The ICR has achieved a number of breakthroughs in its research into cancer of various forms, leading to new treatments.

For example, its research in the area of bladder cancer found that providing radiotherapy and chemotherapy simultaneously was effective in preventing the cancer from returning and had fewer side-effects than other treatments.

Another of its studies in this field found that fewer but larger doses of radiotherapy was more effective in treating this form of cancer and preventing it from coming back.

First-Year Cancer Survival Rates Increase By 9% Since 2005

Survival rates within the first year of being diagnosed with cancer reached 74.6 per cent by 2020, having been steadily increasing since 2005.

According to government figures, the first-year survival rates increased by nine per cent over the 15-year period, with some cancers having a higher survival success rate.

For instance, 97 per cent of people diagnosed with breast cancer were still alive one year after their diagnosis, while the same was true for 80 per cent of bowel cancer patients.

This goes to show that research into cancer treatments and faster diagnosis has improved prognosis, helping people to live much longer after having cancer.

Health minister Helen Whately said: “These figures are highly encouraging.”

She added: “We are laser focused on fighting cancer on all fronts – prevention, diagnosis, treatment, research and funding.”

Ms Whately noted 94 community diagnostic centres have been opened across the country since July 2021, which improve access to tests, scans and checks.

“We are also taking a vaccine taskforce style approach to cancer research to develop new immune-based cancer therapies, including cancer vaccines, as well as producing a major conditions strategy,” the health minister stated.

The figures come after the five-year survival rates were released in February this year, which revealed improvements for most types of cancer. What’s more, child cancer survival rates after five years had reached 86 per cent.

Ms Whately also revealed government goals to diagnose three-quarters of cancers early by 2028, as this will improve the prognosis for patients and boost the survival rates even more.

As early detection is crucial, there has been a lot of reporting surrounding new research that artificial intelligence (AI) could help diagnose lung cancer sooner.

The LIBRA study has created an AI algorithm using CT scans from 500 patients who had large lung nodules. The results showed the AI could identify the risk of cancer in each nodule with an Area Under the Curve (AUC) rating of 0.87, with 1.0 being a perfect model and 0.5 being a guess.

As large lung nodules are closely linked with lung cancer, the AI can help doctors identify high-risk patients, who can then be checked and accurately diagnosed. If cancer is detected, this enables treatment to start as soon as possible.

Lung cancer patient Keith told Digital Health: “It turned out that there were three nodules in my lungs which were cancerous.”

He added: “Any new technology that helps give more clarity over whether something on a CT scan is or isn’t cancer would be great.”

“The earlier the treatment, the better the outcome,” Keith added.

According to Cancer Research UK, there were 48,549 new cases of lung cancer between 2016 and 2018. Only one-tenth of patients survive more than ten years after their diagnosis, which is why early detection is essential.


Anyone who is concerned about their health and wants an appointment quickly should consider getting a Sheffield oncology diagnosis as soon as possible.