Where do you see yourself in five years? It’s one of those standard interview questions asked when possibilities seem endless. The same question to someone with lung cancer though holds far greater weight.
Traditionally seen as a benchmark when the chance of recurrence is no longer likely, the five-year milestone remains a place that sadly too few people reach.
Things were starting to change. Pre-pandemic, real progress was being made in raising five-year survival rates and hopes to achieve a 25% five-year survival rate by 2025 were high. We now find ourselves facing the possibility of a drop of up to 5.3% in 5-year survival in England—from 17.6% to around 12.3%.
Familiar with adversity, Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation is amongst those rallying to ensure all the progress made prior to the pandemic is not futile.
“We are starting to see the true extent of Covid on lung cancer, and it is devastating,” shares Paula Chadwick.
“A significant drop in surgery and increase in emergency presentation all points to later diagnosis. This mirrors the many conversations we are having with patients who had their diagnosis delayed because of the pandemic.
Sadly, we cannot change this. We will and we are supporting those living with this shattering reality. But we must also take every step possible in minimising further lives being lost.
Awareness campaigns like our Spot the Difference campaign are an important aspect in improving awareness, while Targeted Lung Health Checks and lung cancer screening also play a significant part in the recovery of lung cancer, earlier diagnosis and improved survival.
But to do this, we need to address the growing workforce shortages in the NHS, and for that to happen the Government needs to step up. I don’t just mean setting targets. It must invest in the cancer workforce. Then we can really start to recover, rebuild and restore the hope that long term survival for lung cancer is possible.”
“I don’t think I realised how much my life had been subconsciously on hold until I heard those words,” recalled Mandee, who received her five-year all clear this January.
“I was absolutely convinced that I wouldn’t get to this point. Statistically, being diagnosed at stage 3, I had around 15% chance of surviving for five years. But I guess that just proves that statistics should be taken with a pinch of salt! That said, at the time, it is often easier to think, or fear, the worst.
For me, that has never really changed. I suffer from terrible scanxiety and especially at my five-year scan. There felt like there was even more riding on it. By the time that day finally arrived, that fear was through the roof, and it stayed with me for the rest of the week – the longest week of my life – as I waited for my results.
Being told everything was fine was a really surreal experience. It was almost like I was watching it from the corner of the room. It definitely took a few days to sink in.
Now it’s all about looking after myself, planning my retirement and my work with Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation to help other reach this milestone.
I fully intend to live my life, not sweat the small stuff and celebrate every birthday like it’s my 21st because old age is a privilege not afforded to everyone and it’s something I’ll never take granted.”