Whenever the subject of my volntary work comes up there is a question I am normally asked: when is there going to be a cure for cancer? The straight answer I always give is, there will not be a single cure for cancer but there are, and will be, many smaller cures based on specific cancer types.
I have decided that a nice positive post focusing on the incredible progress being made in the fight against cancer is required to show people that there is progress being made, even if cancer is heard of now more then ever. I have been very impressed to research some of the incredible things Cancer Research have achieved and I am going to share some of them today. I hate it when people say no progress is being made, cancer is a horrific enemy and it will take slow and steady steps forward to beat it – we make those steps every day through the incredible work being done by CRUK and all the other charities out there. Believe me, I know it’s hard to remain positive but we are getting there slowly.
I am going to split this into individual cancer types and I hope this post fills you with some sort of hope knowing that progress is being made.
Thirty thousand people die from lung cancer every year in the UK. Eighty percent of this deaths are related to smoking. As regular readers of this blog will know, myself and my amazing fellow Cancer Campaigns Ambassadors work with CRUK to help lower this horrific number. CRUK has made huge huge progress with this and I’m very proud to be a part of it. The scary fact is half of all long term smokers die a premature death due to their nicotine addiction. Smokers lose around ten years of their life on average.
CRUK works very hard to educate people on the dangers of smoking with medical advice and by influcing public policy. They have funded treatment which has been used to shape the NHS Stop Smoking Service. They are also avid supporters of National Non Smoking Day.
CRUK (and us Ambassadors) use their research to campaign and try to influence government policy:
*During the 1990’s CRUK funded research to support a ban on cigarette advertising.
*They were instrumental in seeing the smoking ban across the UK during 2006-2007, something that been predicted to save around forty thousand deaths per year in the UK. Research also suggests childhood asthma rates have fallen since the introduction of the smoking ban.
*”Out of sight out of mind” was my first campaign with CRUK. This played a major role in the removal of cigarette displays in larger retailers as well as cigarette vending machines.
*Our current campaign is “The Answer is Plain” which is aimed at preventing as many children and young people as possible from starting smoking in the first place. Research suggests plain packs will help protect the younger and future generations from the dangers of tobacco.
CRUK and their tenacious and passionate campaigning and research has helped reduce smoking rates by about twenty five percent during the past decade and this prevents thousands of cases of lung cancer every year.
Smoking is a huge cause of lung cancer but it isn’t the only one. CRUK also funds research into the presence of radioactive gas in the home, which could increase cases of lung cancer. They have also funded research in asbestos and this research is helping health and saftely officials save future lives.
As well as research into preventing cancer, CRUK has also provided research into treating lung cancer. They were involved in the development and testing of an array of drugs including Cisplatin and Etopside, both of which are commonly used to treat cancer of the lungs. They also developed a form of radiotherapy known as CHART4 which is used for lung cancer.
Thousands and thousands of people in the UK now survive breast cancer thanks to huge advances in diagnosing, treating and preventing this form of cancer. Eighty percent of woman now survive the disease whereas only fifty percent would survive in the 1970’s.
CRUK researchers have been instrumental in discovering faulty genes that can lead to a heightened risk of developing breast cancer, including the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.
In 2012 it was discovered that breast cancer can be split into ten subtypes. This was a huge step forward and is allowing scientists to understand the disease more and work out how best to diagnose and treat breast cancer sufferers in the future.
CRUK has provided research into lifestyle factors that can increase a persons risk of breast cancer. This research allows the charity to empower people with the knowledge of how to look after their bodies and try and lower their risk of developing the disease. HRT, obesity and alcohol consumption have all been found to increase the risk of breast cancer, whilst exercise has been proven to lower the risk.
CRUK’s research also contributed to the development of the UK’s national breast screening programme and they continue to research ways to improve the programme. This screening saves lives.
Lifesaving drugs have also been research and developed as a result of CRUK research. Trials into Tamoxifen was funded by CRUK.
Research into cervical cancer has led to thousands of women surviving the diease. Two thirds of women diagnosed will survive now whereas less then half of those diagnosed in the 1970’s survived longer then ten years after diagnosis.
CRUK funded research into the causes of cervical cancer. They have discovered that smoking, taking the contraceptive pill, having a high number of sexual partners and having sex at a young age can all increase your risk. They also investigated the links between HPV and cervical cancer and found it to be the primary cause of cervical cancer across the world.
Smear tests have led to cervical cancer rates plummeting in the UK over the past two decades. These tests allow doctors to prevent cervical cancer and treat any abnormal cells promptly. CRUK research was responsible for the earliest studied into smears and this laid the foundations for the current screening programme. Research has shown that this programme is highly effective and prevents THOUSANDS of cancer cases every year.
HPV testing is due to be introduced to the UK one day soon as CRUK trials have been successful. This will improve the screening programme and save even more lives.
Only a quarter of childhood cancer sufferers would survive in the 1960’s. Three quarters of childhood cancer sufferers survive now.
CRUK were involved in a ten year study which has dramatically improved neuroblastoma survival rates by two thirds.
Almost every child diagnosed with retinoblastoma now survives the disease thanks to CRUK research amongst other things.
CRUK have been instrumental in researching genes which can cause childhood cancer including the genes involved in Wilms tumours.
They discovered that woman frequently given x-rays whilst pregnant are more likely to have children who develop lymphoma or leukaemia and this led to x-rays being limited during pregnancy.
This is just come of the incredible progress being made. I don’t want to make this post too long and bombard you with too much information in one go so I will continue in another post at a later date.
All your generous donations and all the time dedicated to cancer charities does help save lives. The research being carried out is very real and it is developing new ways to diagnose, treat and prevent cancer. Cancer will be a thing of the past one day and that day will arrive if we continue to support these incredible charities and the hugely vital work they carry out every day.
Please read this post and realise that although it doesn’t look like much is being done on the outside and people are still dying of cancer, progress is being made.
This post is dedicated to my cousin Georgie, my godfather/uncle Sotiris, my auntie Eleni, my godmother/auntie Gina and my paternal grandparents Alexandra and Peter. Research wasn’t able to save them but I know the work I help do in their memory is making them proud wherever they are now. It is also dedicated to the people I love, I work with CRUK because I am determined to never lose another loved one to this horrific disease.