Fast action on cancer has never been more important
With one in two people in the UK expected to be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, improving cancer survival rates remains high on the Government agenda. UK survival rates have improved since 2000, with five-year survival rate increasing from 42% to 53%. However the UK still lags behind many other countries in our cancer survival rates.
Diagnosis is a key issue, and a report by All.Can released this week suggests that more needs to be done. Figures show that four out of 10 people with cancer in the UK are misdiagnosed at least once, with one in five waiting more than six months to get the correct diagnosis.
Providing speed of access to diagnosis and treatment is key to improving survival rates, which is why a year ago we launched Cancer Direct Access – the UK’s most comprehensive telephone self-referral service for cancer. It allows people who believe they may have cancer symptoms to access specialist diagnostics without needing a GP referral. This approach helps reduce the time between detection, diagnosis and treatment.
We partner with large and small businesses and our data shows that breast, bowel, prostate and skin cancers are the most common forms of cancer that their colleagues experience. Research tells us that if bowel cancer is diagnosed early (stage one), more than 90 per cent of people will survive for five years or more after they’re diagnosed; but the survival rate drops to less than ten per cent if it’s not diagnosed until the latest stage. A quicker diagnosis can also reduce the need for the most complex and invasive surgery, which can improve recovery times and quality of life afterwards.
Many businesses across the UK want to offer their people support, providing access to high quality medical care and treatment when they need it. However, we know that the diagnosis and treatment of many can be delayed as people struggle to find time to book a GP appointment or don’t want to ‘waste their GP’s time’, sometimes even going on-line to try and self-diagnose.
We also know that waiting to find out if symptoms are cancerous can be very stressful. It is clear that there is strong demand for a quicker and more convenient way of seeking medical advice as our Direct Access team has spoken to thousands of customers in the twelve months since the service launched.
We focus hard on supporting people throughout their journey, providing on-going support from our cancer nurses and advisers who develop individual action plans, including lifestyle advice to support secondary prevention and staying healthy. Our Cancer Promise complements our Cancer Direct Access service, giving customers with cancer cover peace of mind that they can access all the eligible treatment and drugs whenever they need it, without cost or time limits.
In our experience many people find work can help them to maintain a semblance of normality following a cancer diagnosis, but they need support to adjust, and remain or return to the workplace. Many of the businesses we work with use early occupational health advice to implement flexible working strategies so employees feel empowered to attend their appointments, treatments sessions or recuperate after treatment.
We take pride in driving forward how cancer care is delivered in the UK. We recognise that poor or impaired physical health can have a negative impact on someone’s mental health which is why, as part of our Cancer Survivorship programme, we also provide customers with access to psychologists, counsellors and nurses who provide emotional and wellbeing support. We believe that offering a complete approach to cancer care can help businesses create a more resilient workforce, where their employees thrive.
Alex Perry is CEO of Bupa Insurance