Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Disaster for the public as cancer treatments succeed!

I know I shouldn't make fun of this because it is a serious topic, but when you read the headlines in the British press, you might wonder if there was terrible news.

Here was the actual headline at the BBC:

Cancer crisis: Cases to reach 'record high in 2015'

And at the Telegraph:

Cancer 'becoming a crisis of unimaginable proportions'

And again at the International Business Times:

Cancer: Record high UK numbers creating 'crisis of unmanageable proportions' for NHS 

The actual story was about how many more people are living with cancer than years ago, with record survival rates.  For example, the story in the i noted:

Better detection of cancers and the increasing success of treatments have led to half of cancer patients today expected to survive.

Among the over-65s, the numbers living with cancer has gone up by 23 percent in five years.

That, of course, is good news.  The point of the stories was that many of these folks will need ongoing care, with some facing ill health or disability after their treatment.  This, in turn, will create financial strains on the NHS.

This is a legitimate public health issue, but the headlines left me chuckling a bit.  It felt a bit like snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.


Bruce Ramshaw said...

A different perspective is that many (maybe most) of those people diagnosed with "cancer" and who are alive have something that would have never caused them harm (cancer is non-linear and does not progress and cause death in everyone). The rate of more people "living" with cancer may be because screening is finding "cancers" in more of the people who never would have been harmed. But, we don't know who they are. Until we apply complex systems science and data analysis, like predictive analytics, we never will know and a massive amount of harm and waste will continue.

Barry Carol said...

If the UK society long ago made a political decision to spend a lower percentage of GDP on healthcare than its Western European neighbors as well as the U.S., I can see how this good news for patients’ medical outcomes could be viewed in other quarters as bad news for societal healthcare costs. The headlines seem to be making that point a bit too openly.

Unknown said...

Bruce Ramshaw said it perfectly.

There is a strong bias about the cancer survival statistics. If you diagnosed 30% more people today than you did 30 years ago but many of these people would never have had an aggressive form of the disease your statistics of success are inherently skewed and tend to demonstrate success where in fact unnecessary harm is often the case. But the stats look so good!

Tom said...

The media and some of the politicians have learned to never let a crisis go un used. If there is no crisis take the news and make one up. Truth is we are all living longer and many of us will die with cancer but not of it. Prostate comes to mind.

Michael said...

An old joke:

Politician complains that the press won't give him a break. If I walked on water, he says, the headline the next day would say: "Rep. Smith can't swim."