There will be a record 2.5 million people living with cancer in the UK in 2015 and this surge is creating a crisis of “unmanageable proportions”.

That is the key claim of an analysis by Macmillan Cancer Support, which notes that the figure represents an increase of almost half a million people in the last five years. The charity notes that the dramatic rise is largely due to improvements in survival and detection, and a growing and ageing population, with the number of over-65s living with cancer increasing by almost a quarter (23%) in just five years.

Of the 2.5 million, 1.6 million were diagnosed five or more years ago. However, “growing evidence shows that many cancer patients do not return to full health after gruelling treatments and many suffer from serious side effects of the disease”.

Macmillan notes that the number of men with prostate cancer has seen the biggest rise of 27% in the last five years, and while many will survive in good health, a large proportion will face longer term issues. It says that research shows that men with prostate cancer who survive at least five years after diagnosis have a 60% increased risk of ongoing urinary problems such as incontinence.

The number of women with breast cancer has also risen by 21% in the last five years and there are now also 18% more people living with colorectal cancer.

'Double-edged sword'

Lynda Thomas, Macmillan chief executive, said that “while it is great news that more people are surviving cancer or living longer with it, progress is a double-edged sword”. She added that “as numbers surge, the NHS will soon be unable to cope with the huge increase in demand for health services and the support that organisations like Macmillan provide will become even more urgent and important”.

Ms Thomas went on to warn that “we cannot do it alone. As we are threatened by a cancer crisis of unmanageable proportions, all political parties must step up and make a real commitment to supporting people with cancer.

“At this point it is no longer enough to just pay lip service to the issue. Ahead of the next general election all political parties must prioritise cancer care in their upcoming manifestos,” she concluded.