Our Chief Clinician Professor Peter Johnson appeared on Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday to talk about the rising costs of cancer care in developed countries.
This conversation was sparked by a newly published report from an international panel of health care professionals, policy makers and cancer survivors, which talks about how cancer is becoming a “major economic expenditure for all developed countries”.
The reasons for the rising cost of cancer care are by no means simple, but one of the underlying reasons is that populations are getting older – and our chances of developing cancer increase with age.
Ironically, our aging population is thanks – in part – to huge improvements in medicine, which mean that we’re less likely to die at a younger age from historical killers like infection.
The result – more people are developing cancer. And more people with cancer means more people to treat.
But, in his interview, Professor Johnson was also keen to point out the more positive side to this story that people aren’t always aware of – thanks to research over the past few decades, cancer survival rates have doubled and are “showing no signs of slowing down”.
In other words, more people are hearing the words “you have cancer”, but more people are surviving their disease.
The big challenge that we face is to continue these improvements into the future.
For those interested in learning more, we highly recommend that you listen to the Today interview in full.
In it, Professor Johnson speaks about the significant challenge of ensuring that our growing understanding of cancer and increasingly sophisticated toolkit of cancer drugs are used effectively for every patient.
If you’re interested in reading more about the Lancet report, there’s an excellent and detailed analysis over on the PLoS blog.
This is a topic we’ll be re-visiting on the blog over the coming months, as the debate about things like the government’s new value-based pricing system for drugs on the NHS heats up.