Thank you to those who have been in touch regarding Breast Cancer and after care. Please allow me to assure you that every effort is being made to continue raising awareness of breast cancer and to improve the treatment of all those diagnosed with this disease.
Breast cancer survival rates have improved remarkably over the last 40 years, with five-year survival rates for women at over 86 per cent, up from just 53 per cent in the 1970s. This is a testament to the efforts made to raise awareness of, and boost funding into tackling this disease but more must be done.
I am glad the Public Health England campaign, Be Clear on Cancer, continues to raise awareness of breast cancer among women over 70, who account for roughly 1 in 3 cases of the disease. First launched in 2014, the campaign drives awareness around key symptoms of breast cancer, encouraging thinking, acting, and treating early.
Great efforts are being made to improve cancer services and to ensure that the NHS continues to provide some of the world’s best cancer care. The NHS has launched the National Cancer Programme which is committed to offering uniquely tailored cancer treatment to all patients with breast cancer by 2020. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has also recently updated its guidance on diagnosing and treating breast cancer. This guidance aims to help healthcare professionals offer the right treatments to people diagnosed with breast cancer, taking into account their individual preferences which I am encouraged will significantly improve patient experience and quality of care.
These measures form just part of the NHS’s ambitious wider strategy to improve cancer outcomes, and save 30,000 lives per year by 2020. Following the announcement of a £20 billion real terms increase in the budget of NHS England, I am more confident than ever that the cancer strategy will achieve this aim.
With regard to after care, I am glad that the NHS is committed to ensuring that people live well with and beyond cancer, which remains a priority area within the Cancer Strategy. As I understand, NHS England are reviewing good practice approaches to reduce and manage the long term consequences of cancer treatments.
I completely understand concerns about the availability of breast reconstruction for women recovering from breast cancer. For many, this is an absolutely essential part of their recovery, and I am encouraged to hear that NHS England is working closely with local providers to ensure consistent care is available to all women in the country, in line with the guidance from the NHS’s Clinical Expert Group for Breast Cancer. I also welcome that the recently updated NICE guidance on breast cancer contains detailed guidelines for breast reconstruction.
With regard to genetic testing, I am glad that some forms of DNA testing for cancer are available on the NHS, including BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes which raise the risk of cancer if they become altered. NICE guidelines require that people with 10 per cent or higher risk of carrying BRCA genes are able to be counselled, supported, and tested. Unfortunately, many other DNA tests for breast cancer are still in the research phase and are therefore not routinely available.
The National Health Service Breast Screening Programme in England offers all women between the ages of 50 and 70 the opportunity to be screened every three years for breast cancer. These screenings play a key part in the early diagnosis of breast cancer, which is central to the Government’s ambition of achieving world-class cancer outcomes. You may be encouraged to hear that the NHS is trialling expanding compulsory screening to women aged between 47 and 73. This trial began in 2009 and is expected to run until the mid-2020s, until the NHS has sufficient information to understand its effectiveness.
I am encouraged that £882 million has been spent on cancer research since 2010 through the National Institute for Health Research, with annual spending on cancer research up by over £35 million since 2010. I also recognise the indispensable contribution made by charities in driving forward research into cancer, with Cancer Research UK alone spending £45 million on breast cancer over the last financial year.