- Academics from 30 universities drew up action plan to tackle disease
- In 40 years they say death from breast cancer will be 'rare'
- Improvement could happen even if a cure is not found
- Claim number of women developing illness will drop by a fifth before 2025
- There are nearly 50,000 new cases and 11,500 deaths every year
Nearly all women will survive breast cancer by 2050, researchers claim.
They believe that within the next 40 years treatment will be so effective that more than 95 per cent of cases will be cured.
Scientists also predict tens of thousands of cases will be prevented in the first place through improved diet, exercise and cutting back on drinking and smoking.
Graph: The number of women surviving breast cancer has risen in recent years, and experts say 95% will be cured by 2050
In one of the largest pieces of work of its kind, academics from more than 30 universities across the UK have drawn up an action plan for how to tackle breast cancer over the next few decades.
They have calculated if nothing is done to improve diagnosis and treatment, 185,000 women will die from the disease between now and 2030.
But with certain medical advances – which they say are achievable – within 40 years it will be rare for women to die from the disease. This could happen without even developing a formal cure for cancer.
Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of Breast Cancer Campaign, which funded the research said: ‘My hope is that we will see a future – by 2050 – where breast cancer can be overcome, it can be prevented, it can be cured and so it can be outlived.’ She added: ‘Time is pressing. If we look at the impact of doing nothing, of not moving forward, then by 2030 we’ll have more than 1.2million women living with breast cancer.’
Breast cancer is by far the most common form of the disease in women. There are nearly 50,000 new cases every year and 11,500 deaths. But the researchers calculate by 2025 the numbers of women developing the disease could fall by a fifth. They hope to be able to pinpoint exactly how diets, exercise and stopping drinking and smoking all prevent the illness.
Decline: Researchers say the number of women developing breast cancer could drop by a fifth before 2025 (file picture)
And when women do get the illness, the researchers hope it will be diagnosed early enough so it can be cured. The academics, whose study is published today in the journal Breast Cancer Research, have drawn up a series of targets where prevention, diagnosis and treatment could be improved.
These include improving tests for the disease so it can be detected before women have noticed a lump or any changes to the breast. And by 2025 they hope to have developed a blood test capable of diagnosing breast cancer well before any symptoms have occurred.
Researchers also say women should be offered personalised treatment so they are given certain combinations of drugs and treatment depending on the exact make-up of their tumour. In addition, they calculate that the number of women whose cancer spreads to other parts of the body could fall by a quarter by 2020 through improved diagnosis and medicines.
They also hope that by 2025 they will be able to predict each woman’s risk of getting the disease based on her family history, weight and other lifestyle habits.
At present 85 per cent of women diagnosed with breast cancer can expect to live for at least five years, compared with 52 per cent in the 1970s. However, Britain still lags behind other countries such as Canada and Australia where well over 90 per cent live at least five years.