Grahame Morris is Vice-Chair of the APPG on Radiotherapy
Grahame Morris is Vice-Chair of the APPG on Radiotherapy

Earlier this month, I joined Radiotherapy UK, Radiotherapy4Life and the #CatchUpWithCancer campaign outside Parliament to learn about the latest data on the cancer backlog.

At the event on Wednesday 6 July, a delegation of cancer professionals, patients and campaigners unveiled a new map of regional and local cancer data to show the extent of the cancer crisis.

In the North East, 34.4% of cancer patients wait longer than 62 days for treatment after urgent referral.

The cancer backlog is a health crisis that is impacting over 100,000 patients. Waiting times are at record highs and cancer patients are not getting the treatment they need. There is an urgent need for increased treatment capacity to clear the backlog and reduce waits.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a massive backlog of cancer patients who are missing a diagnosis or waiting for their treatment. With international research showing that for every four weeks of treatment delay, survival odds for patients can drop by 10%. This is is a time-critical issue for patients across the country.

The event was a fascinating opportunity to speak directly to a delegation of leading radiotherapy experts, patients, and workforce representatives about the opportunities presented by the upcoming 10-year Cancer Plan and how radiotherapy has the potential to have an immediate and dramatic impact on cancer outcomes.

Whilst recent investment in diagnostics is welcome, there are currently no significant plans to increase cancer treatment capacity which will also be needed to effectively clear the backlog. Investment in radiotherapy in particular, which is regarded as the most cost-effective of cancer treatments, is a readily available and yet much overlooked solution to clearing waiting lists and ensuring cancer patients get the care they need.

Investment in radiotherapy is the single most cost-effective and impactful solution we have to clear the cancer backlog, fulfil the ambitions of the 10-year cancer plan, and help to deliver world-leading cancer care in the UK. Radiotherapy is the closest thing we have to a “silver bullet” against the cancer backlog. As one of the three main cancer treatments, radiotherapy is needed in 40% of all cancer cures and by 50-60% of cancer patients, and is the most cost-effective of cancer treatments, curing patients for as little as £3,000-£7,000. It is also Covid-safe and can substitute for surgery to reduce waiting lists.

It is imperative that radiotherapy is included as a core part of the Government’s 10-Year Cancer Plan as a key high technology cancer treatment, which can help to tackle the cancer backlog and to deliver world-leading cancer care in the UK.

The sooner the benefits of radiotherapy are realised, the sooner we can work together to avoid many unnecessary deaths from cancer.

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