My speech in today’s debate on Secondary Breast Cancer

Today I gave a speech in Westminster Hall during a debate about Secondary Breast Cancer. You can find a copy of my speech below.

“Cancer is a harrowing illness for those suffering, their family and friends.

Three million people will be living with cancer in the United Kingdom by the end of this Parliament.

Two close friends who played a big part in helping me to get here have been diagnosed with cancer since the election and for their sake and the sake of the 550 people in Wiltshire under 75 who die of cancer every year, I feel that Cancer must remain at the top of the agenda with a long term cancer strategy for combatting this dreadful illness.

Cancer is something that will touch almost everyone’s lives at some point.

For many people with cancer, the issue is ensuring that they have as much relevant information as fast as possible.

Many trawl the internet looking for the information, not just regarding drugs, but on the ´treatments´ they can use to help themselves – like diet, exercise and other complementary therapies.

The truth is that today´s cancer patient knows there are things they can do to improve their chances of survival.

They want to increase their knowledge so that they can make more-informed decisions and better personal choices.

They want to create their own personal ´treatment´ package around their doctor´s recommendations.

No two patients wishes are identical and I think an important step in the right direction that the Government has taken is personal support from a clinical nurse specialist for those with secondary breast cancer.

The Minister will be aware that Macmillan Cancer Support are calling on the Government to fund an independent review into choices for end of life care and I encourage him to look closely at what Macmillan have to say.

I know that Ministers are committed to improving the detection and treatment of breast cancer, particularly to avoid the risk of secondary breast cancer developing.

I am encouraged that breast cancer survival rates are improving, however, there is much more to be done.

The only way to combat secondary breast cancer is to reduce primary cancer.

Survival time post diagnosis is dependent on a number of factors including the stage of diagnosis, the overall health of the patients and quality of care.

One of my concerns is the often overlooked older generation – cancer is not a part of old age and we need to consider how we reach our elderly with information and support to have the confidence to seek medical help early.

Too often pensioners, like my Grandmother was, are afraid to attend their GP which means the help comes too late.

To combat this one solution is to provide more services at a community level so the fear of going into hospital is reduced.

This has been achieved in Wilshire in the respect of chemotherapy services with the support of the ‘Help for tomorrow’ charity – which I proud to be a fundraiser for – who have provided a mobile chemotherapy unit.

In regards to the health of the patient, there is work to be done to reduce to heath inequality which is shown by higher rates of mortality in deprived areas.

Assessing risky lifestyle behaviour such as smoking and poor diets is vital to be combined with active screen and symptom awareness programmes to help mortality rates fall far more.

Last weekend a close family friend lost her own battle with secondary breast cancer and I saw first-hand how we need to continue to improve the care across the whole cancer journey and ensure it is personalised to their own individual and family needs.

It is of utmost importance to ensure that secondary breast cancer patients have access to appropriate services or referral to specialist palliative care which can provide more effective pain relief in the management of the illness if they so wish.

The cost of cancer will continue to rise during this parliament this is why we need a clear long term strategy to address problem.

This includes investing in reducing the impact of primary cancers to save money and lives in the long run as well as a personalised care plans to help those living with cancer.

So, in conclusion, I hope that we can do even more to support those living with cancer because it is a disease that will touch all our lives at some point and I hope that the Minister will look closely at proposals by Macmillan to fund an independent review into choices for end of life care.”