Medical negligence

Can research outpace the UK’s growing elderly cancer population?

Matt Brown, litigation nurse, explores the challenges posed by the increasing elderly cancer population and the potential of research and development in revolutionising cancer care.

28 June 2023

Matt Brown, litigation nurse at Slater and Gordon, looks at the challenges posed by the growing elderly cancer population and how recent, and future developments of cancer treatment.

The elderly population and cancer

Speaking of cancer can be a distressing topic to many though, as research develops, survival statistics in the UK are showing great improvement. Despite these developments, the growing population of elderly cancer patients presents an overwhelming caseload with more complex healthcare requirements, due to pre-existing medical conditions.

Recent research conducted by Cancer Research UK has revealed that over one-third of all newly diagnosed cases are occurring in individuals aged 75 and above. The prevalence of cancer is projected to rise significantly due to the ageing demographic, resulting in an increase from 3 million people living with cancer in 2020 to an estimated 5.3 million by 2040.

Furthermore, within the next twenty years, approximately 60% of newly diagnosed cancer cases will be among individuals over the age of 70.

The impact of COVID-19

The rising ageing population will see an increase in cancer rates, which the NHS may not be able to handle. Already, cancer waiting times are too long for tens of thousands of people across the UK. Macmillan estimates that 43,000 people missed a cancer diagnosis due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and by March 2022, treatment statistics were significantly lower than expected.

This indicates that cancer services have not yet recovered to where they were pre-pandemic, let alone increased delivery to meet rising demand, which is leading to delayed diagnosis.

How is medicine adapting to modern technologies?

Medicine is not an exact science. It’s constantly developing, evolving, and changing as more is understood and discovered. Technological advancements have unleashed a wave of new treatment options, revolutionising healthcare practices. From the breakthroughs in radiological imaging to the transformative impact of robotics on surgical techniques, medicine continues to push the boundaries of what is possible.

Currently, researchers at King’s College London are assessing whether artificial intelligence could help to diagnose bowel cancer quicker and with less margin for error. The GI Genius system is a new piece of technology which uses advanced algorithms to identify and mark abnormalities which may be polyps (small growths on the inner lining of the large bowel which can become cancerous), acting as a ‘second checker’ for doctors when performing colonoscopies.

When detected earlier, bowel cancer has a 90% chance of recovery, and with 42,900 new cases of bowel cancer in the UK every year, it is the second most common cause of cancer fatalities.

Advanced blood tests

In the United States, the Galleri Blood Test has been used to accurately diagnose where in the body cancer is 85% of the time. Whilst this is currently only available in the United States, in England and Wales the Symplify trial has shown good results that this blood test can detect more than 50 different types of cancer.

The test correctly diagnosed 66% of cancers from Bowel, Lung, Ovarian to Uterine and Oesophageal, although it has greater accuracy in the later stages of cancer, and diagnosing and treating cancer earl is vital to save lives. It doesn’t detect all cancers and won’t replace the Bowel, Breast and Cervical Cancer screening services in the UK, which have worked tremendously for early detection of these cancers.

These modern developments of detecting cancer early will undoubtably result in greater survival rates, however, accuracy rates require improvement and further studies are needed before we can say for certain that a negative result will mean no cancer.

How we can help if you’ve had a delayed cancer diagnosis or misdiagnosis

If you’ve received a misdiagnosis, or believe the delay in your cancer diagnosis could have been prevented, you could have strong grounds for a medical negligence claim. Delay in care or receiving incorrect care can have a devastating impact.

Our clinical negligence solicitors work closely with our in-house medical team to accurately pinpoint where the medical care you received was substandard. Renowned for their dedication to taking on complex cases, and ensuring our clients receive the best rehabilitation and treatment possible, our experts are on hand to make sure we can support you throughout your claim.

Contact us

For the majority of medical negligence cases we work on a no win, no fee basis, meaning that there is no financial risk to yourself, if your claim is unsuccessful.

To find out more, and to speak to one of our medical negligence experts, call us on 0330 041 5869 or online.

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