Cancer survival rates rise by 70% in Scotland

CANCER survival rates have risen by nearly 70 per cent in Scotland over the past 30 years, it has been revealed, as a major drive to tackle fatalistic attitudes to the disease was launched.

Shona Robison, with testicular cancer survivor Alex Watson and cancer campaigners, from left. Picture: John Devlin
Shona Robison, with testicular cancer survivor Alex Watson and cancer campaigners, from left. Picture: John Devlin

Figures from the NHS figures division ISD Scotland show that about 15,800 men and women diagnosed with cancer this year will survive compared to 9,500 that would have survived 30 years ago.

The average ten-year survival rate for cancer has also doubled over the past 30 years – as now two in four people survive, compared to one in four in the 1970s.

This came as a major initiative to wage war on the disease known as the “wee C” was launched yesterday by the Scottish Government, which aims to change the perception of cancer as a death sentence.

Improved survival rates can be attributed to more precise treatments and better awareness of the disease, said Gregor McNie, senior public affairs manager at Cancer Research UK.

Mr McNie said: “The big story behind this is improvements in treatments, which are more precise and are able to tackle the disease more effectively.

“Research has also helped to understand the disease better, so there can be an intervention at an earlier stage. There is also a much greater understanding of symptoms than there was 30 years ago, so people are more likely to pick up on something earlier and go to the doctor.”

Cancer screening has also played a big role, although Mr McNie said there were still challenges to address as there is greater uptake among breast and cervical cancer screening than bowel cancer among women.

He added: “It is great that we have reached a place though where something like breast cancer screening is starting to become a normal thing for people. There is still a sense of fatalism in certain groups which we want to challenge, as that can stop people from seeking help.”

There has been a significant change in positive outcomes but more needs to be done to find better and kinder treatments, said testicular cancer survivor Alex Watson, 43, who was diagnosed with the disease when he was 23 years old.

Mr Watson, who lives in Lenzie, East Dunbartonshire, said: “Years ago, testicular cancer is something that you wouldn’t have survived. I did know of someone who was diagnosed at the same time as me who died from the disease. It’s so good that people are getting the all-clear and are surviving, but I do think more needs to be done in terms of making sure people get better and kinder treatments.

“Treatments are getting better all of the time and that means the world to people like me who are living longer with the consequences of having had cancer.

“There’s so much more to be done which is why it’s important that people continue to support Cancer Research UK and its scientists to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.”

The Wee C drive has been backed by 14 cancer charities, as well as Scottish celebrities, including Kaye Adams, Tom Kitchin and Sir Jackie ­Stewart.

Health secretary Shona Robison said: “I know how daunting it can be to get a cancer diagnosis and the impact this has on an individual and their families’ lives.

“However, cancer isn’t what it used to be with more people than ever before now surviving a diagnosis. This is why it is time for the other, more positive side of the story to be told.”

The scheme hopes to change the way cancer is viewed in a bid to boost survival rates, by making sure more people see their GP or attend a screening.