Cancer Diagnosis Now 'More Common Than Marriage'

Liam Davenport

July 11, 2017

It is now more common for an individual to be diagnosed with cancer than for an individual to get married, have a first child, or be awarded a degree from a university, says report by a leading cancer charity in the United Kingdom.

The report was published online July 10 by Macmillan Cancer Support to coincide with an advertising campaign by the charity Life With Cancer, which aims to reduce fear associated with a cancer diagnosis and to highlight the support that is available to help cancer survivors live as normally as possible.

Lynda Thomas, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said in a release: "Being told you have cancer changes your life, and it can leave people feeling as if they've been thrust into the unknown, bewildered and unprepared.

"But as more and more people are being diagnosed with cancer, it's important that we are all better informed about what to expect if we do one day we receive this shocking news."

The report gathers together data from a range of sources, including previously published research, surveys conducted by Macmillan Cancer Support, and official UK statistics, from which the charity derived an overview of the impact of cancer on a population level.

This overview showed that in 2015, approximately 360,000 people in the United Kingdom had been diagnosed with cancer.

Estimates suggest that that figure has already increased. Around 35% of cancer cases are diagnosed in people younger than 65 years, including more than 2000 children and teenagers every year.

The charity indicates that there were more than 70,000 new cancers cases per year than new marriages. There were approximately 50,000 more new cancer cases than there were women who gave birth to their first child or young people who were awarded undergraduate degrees.

The cancer diagnoses are divided almost equally among men (51%) and women (49%). Just more than half (53%) of all new cases are cancers of the breast, prostate, lung, and bowel.

Five-year survival rates range from more than 80% for breast cancer, prostate cancer, melanoma of the skin, Hodgkin's lymphoma, and thyroid and testicular cancer to fewer than 15% for lung and liver cancer and 6% to 7% for mesothelioma and pancreatic cancer.

Disease That Is Feared the Most

The report also shows that 37% of the general public say that cancer is the disease they fear the most, more than dementia (27%) and stroke or heart disease (11%).

Among those with cancer, 23% reported that they felt as if their life was effectively over when they were diagnosed. Furthermore, 64% were worried about the impact of the diagnosis on family and friends, and 21% were concerned that people would treat them differently.

However, 85% of people with cancer do not want the disease to define them, the report notes.

The impact of cancer on daily life also appears to be more manageable than people fear, with 90% of individuals with cancer saying they live their life as normally as possible, 52% saying that cancer has not changed who they are, and 75% reporting that they are no less able to support their friends than they were before.

No funding or relevant financial relationships have been disclosed.

Macmillan Cancer Support. The C-Word: How We React to Cancer Today. Published online July 10, 2017. Full text

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