POSTED: December 02 2019
Number of people living with cancer soars

Number of people living with cancer soars

As number of people living with cancer soars by 20% in just five years, a leading cancer charity warns there must be a priority on NHS staffing by the next Government.

The number of people living with cancer in the UK has soared to nearly three million, new research by Macmillan Cancer Support reveals today.

The charity predicts this number will continue to steadily rise to almost 3.5 million people in the UK by 2025.[i]

The new analysis, which uses national cancer registry data, also shows that someone is diagnosed with cancer on average every 90 seconds. Macmillan estimates that 35,000 people will receive the life-changing news that they have cancer in the five-week election period, alone.[ii]

Macmillan says this new data highlights the need for political parties to tackle the ‘perfect storm’ of rising numbers of people living with cancer amid staffing shortages and unprecedented pressures on NHS and social care professionals as a ‘day-one priority’.

Lynda Thomas, Macmillan Cancer Support’s Chief Executive, said: “More and more people are hearing the life-changing news that they have cancer, at a time when the NHS desperately needs additional doctors and nurses. Ultimately, this is whipping up a perfect storm which needs to be taken seriously as a day-one priority by party leaders.

“I constantly hear heart-breaking stories from patients who are so grateful for their healthcare professionals but often don’t want to add to their workload with their needs or concerns. We need decision makers across the UK to prioritise funding and put in place the right plans, to ensure we have a cancer workforce fit for purpose both now and in the future.”

Recent research by Macmillan also shows more than two thirds (68%) of newly diagnosed cancer patients are already not getting all the help they need with issues related to their cancer.[iii] [iv] This includes feelings of pain, fatigue, anxiety and depression. Patients who felt their healthcare professionals had unmanageable workloads (one in five) were also nearly a third more likely to say they are not getting this support.[v]

Macmillan’s specialist advisor for workforce Nikki Cannon, who has more than 20 years’ experience working as an NHS nurse, said: “NHS and care staff are rushed off their feet as it is — a problem that will only increase as the numbers of people living with cancer, and complex social care needs as a result, continue to rise. Party leaders cannot underestimate the importance of ensuring there are enough healthcare professionals with the right skills to provide these people, who form a significant portion of the population, with the vital care they need and deserve.”

The cancer charity warns that while cancer isn’t always life-threatening, it is always life-changing.

Macmillan does all it can to help people living with cancer live their lives as fully as they can, but it cannot do it alone. The charity is funded almost entirely by generous public donations, and so it continues to call for donations to help its services be there for more people affected by cancer and calls on governments across the UK to address the staffing challenges facing the NHS and social care.

Cancer UK: The facts

  • An estimated 1.3 million men and 1.6 million women will be living with cancer in the UK in 2020.
  • This represents an increase of around 500,000 cases (18%) from 2015.
  • In England alone around 2.4 million people (1.1 million men and 1.3 million women) will be living with cancer in 2020.
  • Of these nearly 3 million people in the UK, over 250,000 (110,000 men and 150,000 women) will be living with cancer in Scotland, 170,000 in Wales (70,000 men and 90,000 women) and 82,000 (35,000 men and 47,000 women) in Northern Ireland.
  • In 2025, Macmillan estimates that nearly 3.5 million people, of whom 1.5 million men and 1.9 million women, will be living with cancer in the UK.
  • This figure is likely to grow to 4 million people within the next decade (2030).
  • Breast (800,000 women) and prostate (500,000 men) are the two most common cancer types in the UK in 2020.
  • There are also 340,000 people living with colorectal and 90,000 living with lung cancer.


  You can read Macmillan’s press release in full here.