Cancer re-emerges as the UK’s primary health priority in the post-Covid world

Would you be willing to have a single blood test that could detect a range of ­cancers? I should think so.

In fact, three-quarters of people who have been offered such a test would have it, say academics at University College London.

Infectious diseases aside, ­cancer remains our top health concern. As many as 40% of adults say their lives have been changed because people important to them have been harmed by cancer.

Worse, about 10,000 people will die of cancer much earlier than they would have done if Covid-19 hadn’t swamped the NHS.

UCL’s School of Pharmacy Cancer Policy Project surveyed 2,096 people in May this year, and while the great majority want to be tested regularly, a quarter of adults are hesitant about accepting cancer testing.

They tend to be relatively young and members of ethnic minorities. These people are also more likely to say they’re hesitant about accepting vaccines and that climate change isn’t a threat to human survival.

Report co-author Professor David Taylor (UCL School of Pharmacy) said: “Since early 2020 most people have been primarily focused on the threat of Covid-19. But as the pandemic becomes better controlled by vaccines, medicines and other public health measures, cancer is re-emerging as the UK public’s top health priority. The immediate challenge is to reduce NHS waiting lists.

“Yet to retain British public ­confidence up to the next general ­election, policymakers will also need to restore progress in cancer research, prevention and medical and social care improvement, despite the economic impacts of Brexit and

Community Diagnostic Hubs are integral to building a robust cancer diagnostics service.

Located outside hospitals, these hubs will be tasked with diagnosing more than 75% of cancers at stages 1 and 2 by 2028.

Targeted screening is also needed for lung cancer which still accounts for 20% of all cancer deaths.

Another important health goal is eliminating smoking by the start of the 2030s, so we have to find novel ways to help smokers quit.

It’s hoped that more and more cancer treatments will be made bespoke to individual patients, but for that our health service must have dedicated resources.

Co-author and cancer clinician Professor Mark Emberton, the dean of UCL Faculty of Medical Sciences, concluded: “I strongly support the efforts being made to re-awaken public awareness of the value of early cancer diagnosis, and to encourage people to report unusual symptoms to their doctors, even if they seem minor…”