Earlier in the year, I focused on cancer and return to it because I think the government and society should give it a much bigger priority.
It’s true we have made real progress in overcoming breast cancer over the past 20 years.
Awareness has improved. Detection is now earlier and better. Thanks to research started decades ago, more effective therapies and treatments have been introduced.
Five-year survival rates have improved significantly and over 80 per cent of women diagnosed with breast cancer today will be alive in five years.
But my job is to prod the government to do more and I recently tabled parliamentary questions to push the health minister on specific points.
First, I asked what discussions the department has had with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) on how the advanced breast cancer diagnosis and treatment guideline could be updated to include recent evidence on the effects of undertaking biopsies from breast cancer patients with recurrent or metastatic breast cancer. Sadly, the reply was there have been no such discussions. NICE is independent but I expect the government to at least discuss this with them.
My second question was about the minister’s assessment of compliance by NHS England to the breast cancer quality standard statements relating to multi-disciplinary teams and cancer nurse specialists. Sadly, the minister just replied that no assessment has been made.
The ultimate aim is to make cancer history.