The projections, released by the charity Breast Cancer Now, suggest that while the chances of an individual woman surviving the disease are improving, the overall number of women being diagnosed each year is increasing. If current trends continue, the charity predicts the annual number of UK deaths from breast cancer will begin increasing once more in 2022.
Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of the charity, called the latest data “deeply worrying” and urged for improvements and standardisation of cancer treatment across the NHS.
Breast cancer is the UK’s most common cancer, with around 55,000 women and 350 men being diagnosed with the disease each year. While more women are surviving the disease than ever before, nearly 11,500 still lose their lives each year in the UK – with survival rates continuing to lag behind other European countries such as Sweden, Portugal, Malta, Germany and France.
Thanks to advances in research, the number of women dying from breast cancer each year in the UK has decreased steadily from 15,625 in 1989 to under 11,500 two decades later.
However this progress has begun to plateau in recent years, and amid increasing incidence of the disease – due to the UK’s ageing population and the rise in obesity levels, among other factors – the trend could soon reverse.
Almost all deaths from the disease are attributable to the development of metastatic (or ‘secondary’) breast cancer, where the tumour cells spread to other parts of the body and become incurable.
In order to save more lives, Breast Cancer Now has urged the Government to complete three steps:
Address geographic variations in NHS breast cancer services across England.
Invest in local initiatives to improve screening uptake amid decade-low attendance.
Fund interventions to prevent thousands of ‘avoidable’ breast cancers by 2027, including by supporting more women to make sustainable healthy lifestyle changes.
Baroness Morgan commented: “This projected rise in breast cancer deaths is deeply worrying, but it is not too late to stop it. We now have a once in a generation opportunity to invest to stop thousands more women dying from breast cancer and we urge the Government to act now.
“Preventing the spread of breast cancer, and finding ways to treat it effectively when it does, remains our greatest research challenge to improving survival.. Our aim is that by 2050, everyone who develops breast cancer will live.”