28 September 2010
The current follow-up system for cancer patients is a waste of time and needs to be completely overhauled, according to Jane Maher, Chief Medical Officer at Macmillan Cancer Support writing for BBC Scrubbing Up.
Instead cancer patients should be given 'the skills and knowledge to self-manage their condition, and provide support if needed, which would be far more effective at spotting reoccurrences of cancer.'
At the moment cancer patients who survive initial treatment enter what is called the 'follow-up system' - regular appointments to check that the cancer has not returned. Jane Maher, says: 'The current system is wasteful, ineffective, and not the best way to spot many recurrent cancers.'
But there is surprisingly little evidence that this method is the best way to spot recurrences of cancer or the other possible long term health consequences of being treated for cancer.
Jane draws on recent work which 'suggests that around 70% of recurrence for breast cancer could be detected by either patients noticing symptoms themselves or by surveillance testing alone, with a face-to-face appointment if needed.'
She continues 'this is only possible if patients are helped to understand their illness, can access regular tests and know how and when to contact specialists if problems arise.'
Plus, one in five people living after treatment for cancer will develop long term emotional, psychological and physical problems that seriously affect their quality of life. Yet there are few, if any, NHS services specifically for cancer survivors.
The NHS needs to radically transform the way it provides support for patients following hospital treatment.
In the UK there are already two million people surviving cancer. This figure will grow to four million by 2030 due to better cancer treatment, earlier diagnosis and people living longer - these millions need comprehensive post-treatment support.
Read Jane Maher's viewpoint on the BBC Health website
For more information or interview requests, please contact:
Andrea Shufflebotham, Media & PR Officer, Macmillan Cancer Support
0207 840 4689 (out of hours 07801 307068)
Notes to Editors:
1. Traditionally, follow-up involves out-patient department visits with a consultant, backed up with diagnostic tests.
2. Due to advances in treatment, more people are living longer and having to cope with the consequences of cancer. In the UK there are already two million people surviving cancer. This figure will grow to four million by 2030 due to better cancer treatment, earlier diagnosis and people living longer.
3. Macmillan Cancer Support works with the Department of Health and NHS Improvement Services as part of the National Cancer Survivorship Initiative (NCSI).
About Macmillan Cancer Support
Macmillan Cancer Support improves the lives of people affected by cancer, providing practical, medical, emotional and financial support. Working alongside people affected by cancer, Macmillan works to improve cancer care. One in three of us will get cancer. Two million of us are living with it. If you are affected by cancer Macmillan can help.
Call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00, Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm. Calls are free, including from mobiles.