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This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Science Surgery

Our Science Surgery series answers your cancer science questions.

If you have a question that you’d like us to answer, send it to us using the email address at the bottom of this post.

Jonny, on Twitter, asked: “I read a cure for cancer will never be found so more time should be researched into controlling it instead. How true is this?”

A cure for cancer is understandably at the top of many people’s wish lists, and whether one will ever be found is something we’re often asked.

Answering this question isn’t a simple case of ‘yes’ or ‘no’, because it depends on the way that the term ‘cancer’ is defined. The word ‘cancer’ is singular, but it reflects more than just one disease. It should actually be viewed as an umbrella term for a collection of hundreds of different diseases. They all share the fundamental characteristic of rogue cells growing out of control, but each type of cancer, and each person’s individual cancer, is unique and comes with its own set of challenges.

That’s why it’s very unlikely that there will be one single cure that can wipe out all cancers. But, as we explain in the short animation below, that doesn’t mean individual cases of cancer can’t be cured. Many cancers in fact already can be. Testicular cancer for instance is very sensitive to treatment with chemotherapy drugs and most cases can be cured – survival today is as high as 98%, and that’s just one example among many.

  • Find out more in our video here.

Researchers aren’t on the hunt for a silver bullet against all cancers. Quite the opposite. The more scientists get to know each type of cancer inside and out, the greater the chance of finding new ways to tackle these diseases so that more people can survive.

That’s why our life-saving research goes on.

Justine

We’d like to thank Jonny for asking us this question. If you’d like to ask us something, email sciencesurgery@cancer.org.uk, leaving your first name and location (optional).

Comments

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Justine Alford October 10, 2017

Hi Linda,

We’re sorry to hear about what you and your husband are both going through. If you’d like to chat to one of our nurses, you can call on freephone 0808 800 4040, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

You’re right that the PSA test is not reliable enough to be used for screening, and because of this there’s no national prostate cancer screening programme in the UK. A large study published in 2013 brought together the results of different trials that had compared men who underwent screening with the PSA test and those who didn’t, and found that screening didn’t save any lives. And the men who had screening were more likely to have unnecessary tests and treatment. You can read more about this research here: http://www.cochrane.org/CD004720/PROSTATE_screening-for-prostate-cancer. What this research has shown is that the PSA test can pick up cancers that wouldn’t have gone on to cause any problems in a man’s lifetime if they had gone undetected. Finding these cancers can therefore lead to unnecessary tests, treatment and distress. The PSA test can also miss some prostate cancers.

Men aged 50 and over without potential prostate cancer symptoms can request a PSA test from their doctor, but it’s important these men have a conversation with their doctor first to understand the possible outcomes of having the test, so they can make an informed decision.

If you’d like more information about prostate cancer screening, visit our website: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/prostate-cancer/getting-diagnosed/screening

Best wishes,

Cancer Research UK

Linda Holland October 9, 2017

I have had breast cancer first in 2006 and then again in 2015 with no particular history of breast cancer in my family. My second cancer required a mastectomy and on histology it was discovered I had two difference types of cancer in the breast tissue. I am on hormone treatment with Letrozole and Bisphosphonates. Women are at least fortunate enough to have regular screening for breast cancer but unfortunately this is note the case for hormone related cancers in men : why not? although it is said that PSA is not a reliable indicator at least it would be an indicator if it was 1307 ! Men who seek this test are often asked why they want it and are quite honestly not made to feel it is a right which it should be as I speak from first hand experience with my husband who only found out by accident with a referral to a consultant for a different matter. This test should be rolled out for all men at 50 PLUS

Justine Alford October 6, 2017

Hi Deborah, Rise,
We’re really sorry to hear about both of your situations. It sounds like you’re both going through very tough times.
If you’d like to chat to someone, you can call our information nurses on 0808 800 4040, or send them a message here: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-us/contact-us/talk-to-our-nurses
Wishing you both all the best,
Justine, Cancer Research UK

Deborah Cooke October 6, 2017

My husband is now acutely ill with Pancreatic Cancer. He received the best and newest treatment available. We sought second opinions at each stage. He had chemotherapy and radiotherapy with the plan for surgery. When they operated in July they found that the cancer had spread extensively despite his scan being clear. His disease has progressed so rapidly and he is now receiving end of life care. I can only hope and pray that a cure can be found for this horrendous disease.

Rise October 6, 2017

I do think my type of cancer will be cured by drugs and chemo. radiotheraphy. I have been through chemo and although it is devastating, I am reassured that it is treatable with all the new drugs coming through. I have Non Hodgkins Lymphoma Stage 5 with underlying problems which I know cannot be cured but can be controlled with treatment
Most cancers can be cured it just depends on when they are detected and the type of cancer.

Anne Harvey October 6, 2017

I think that with the amount of Charity money which is being raised for breast cancer that more could and should be done at least for that. 50 years on and we are still offering women the very devastating chemotherapy , surgery and radiotherapy trio.The drugs may be newer and better targeted but these are still tremendously harsh treatments. What on earth happens to all the money which is raised? We dont all want bags of free cosmetics!!!

Philip MCDONALD October 6, 2017

Yes we will cure this bony and family killer .But what will replace it .

Kristian howe October 5, 2017

I wish an hope thay can kill cancer all types of the t!@#. It has jus taken my amazing mother an grandmother 12 days ago. she fought hard until the end. She is missed so much. We an mum would be so happy to no that people don’t have to go through what mum an my family have been through from the hands of cancer

Dilen October 5, 2017

Does marijuana actually cure cancer? I mean the oils of this plant?

Does the rare blue scorpion venom also cure cancer?

I have seen personal documentaries upon these and they are extremely convincing. Also I know someone that had cancer and the doctor stated she would only have a week to live so she started smoking marijuana and all of a sudden 6 months down the line she passed away… so the marijuana actually slowed the growth of cancer I assume…

I mean I’m dead against narcotics but if it slows or cures cancer I can’t see the harm in it!

Wendy A Esposito October 5, 2017

There are SO many types of cancer it’s inconceivable to me that there will ever be a one-size fits all cure for cancer. There is a myriad of treatments available, all with varying degrees of success but all dependent on so many variables.

I have Stage 3 MALT Lymphoma and I know it’s treatable but not curable!

Sharon October 5, 2017

The chances of childhood cancer being cured with the measly amount you donate is looking very unlikely

IAN MCDONALD October 5, 2017

NO I DONT THINK IT WILL BE CURED FOR SOME YEARS,THEY HAVE HAD SEVERAL YEARS NOW AND PEOPLE STILL DYING OF CANCER,I AM A SUFFERER MYSELF, AND HOPEFULLY CAN SLOW IT AND WISH EVERY ONE THE BEST FOR THE FUTURE