As we enter the New Year, it is not often that your first thought for discussion is cancer.
However, I recently took part in a House of Commons backbench debate to consider the Cancer Strategy one year on. What struck me most, and which the debate acknowledged, was that support for the cancer strategy extends across party politics. With over two hundred different types of cancer, when we discuss ‘cancer’ there is a strong and broad consensus, both by way of sentiment and in the solutions.
Unfortunately, every two minutes, a person in the UK is diagnosed with cancer and currently, 2.5 million people in this country are living with or beyond the disease. However, the UK’s progress in addressing cancer lags behind many of our European counterparts. And whilst patient outcomes, early diagnosis and prevention remain at forefront, the cancer strategy must also consider the broader debate.
For instance, the importance of research and treatment, developing new medicines and a deeper understanding of both cancer and the disease itself. Whilst we know that across the piece, our one year, five year and ten year survival rates are improving for all types of cancer, it is the outcomes for rarer cancers and those harder to isolate, which we must work more resolutely towards. Building on the work of the Five Year Forward View, my own campaign for a more ‘Personalised Medicine’ approach, with targeted medicines and treatment for patients, is the right direction of travel. It has the potential to reduce many of the side-effects that patients experience and offers better outcomes.
However, recent statistics from Macmillan, that around 34,000 affected individuals across East Anglia, will be lonely this Christmas and New Year and with many due to spend their Christmas in hospital or still receiving treatment, we must also reflect on the social, emotional and practical care cancer sufferers receive.
For example, the Countryside Alliance Foundation take women suffering from cancer fly-fishing, helping them, albeit briefly, to take a welcome break from treatment and experience something new and peaceful. We must not underestimate the importance of individual wellbeing alongside medical treatment; and support for patients does well to consider the whole person and not just the disease.
If we think to our own experiences of supporting cancer charities, whether hosting a Macmillan Coffee Morning, as I did in November, or taking part in the Cancer Research Mile Race, these events are more than just about raising money or having fun. They remind us that we can all help advance cancer treatment and care; helping individuals and families live with and beyond cancer.
So as the debate concluded the year’s review of the UK’s cancer strategy, I look forward to revisiting this debate a year on, in 2017. And with this, I would like to take this opportunity to wish everybody a Happy New Year.
Casting for Recovery: http://www.castingforrecovery.org.uk
-- Jo Churchill is MP for Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket