Cancer Strategy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:04 pm on 8th December 2016.

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Photo of Henry Smith Henry Smith Conservative, Crawley 3:04 pm, 8th December 2016

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for calling me early in this debate. May I express my sincere thanks to Nic Dakin, and to my hon. Friend Mr Baron? Of course, I join the whole House in sending our best wishes to my hon. Friend’s wife at a very difficult time. I also pay tribute to the Backbench Business Committee for allowing time for this vital debate about the cancer strategy now that it is almost 18 months since it was published in July last year.

I am going to confine my remarks to the issue of blood cancers, and hope to be concise. There are 137 different types of blood cancer, although many of them are not well understood by the general public, and awareness is relatively low. In fact, blood cancers are the fifth most common type of cancer that people are diagnosed with in this country, and, sadly, the third biggest killer. It therefore deserves much greater awareness and understanding, and further efforts by the Department of Health and the national health service to ensure that patients who are diagnosed and their families are properly supported. I thank the hon. Member for Scunthorpe for raising that issue.

I was initially very unaware of the issue of blood cancer; my knowledge was relatively vague. That was until midway through 2012, when after only a few weeks of being ill with flu-like symptoms, my mother was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia, and within 24 hours of diagnosis unfortunately passed away. Sadly, this experience has been revisited in my office. One of my employees, Tom, who also works for my hon. Friend Jeremy Quin, found out only weeks ago that his mother has unfortunately been diagnosed with leukaemia. I know that the House will join me in sending our best wishes to her and to her family.

The issue of blood cancers often comes thundering into people’s lives unexpectedly, because it does not, perhaps, have the same profile as solid tumour cancers. Indeed, I mentioned my mother’s experience of being ill for a short time and being diagnosed very late. Unfortunately, the national cancer patient experience survey has shown that a third of those who are diagnosed with blood cancers have gone to see their GP twice before they finally get that diagnosis, again because of the lack of awareness.

In relation to our efforts here in Parliament, I am pleased that just before the summer recess I was able, with the help of other right hon. and hon. Members, to establish the all-party parliamentary group on blood cancer. I am delighted to see Jim Shannon in his place—he is a very key member of that group—as we seek to raise awareness of this issue. I would like to put on the record my sincere thanks to the Speaker for allowing Bloodwise, the cancer charity that is the secretariat to the all-party group, to hold an awareness event in his apartments in September.

The Minister is very diligent and works very hard, and in the short time he has held his well-deserved position he has been very kind and generous to me when responding to health concerns. I would be grateful if the issue of blood cancers was specifically addressed, so that the patient pathway and patient experience can be improved with regard to general awareness, diagnosis and the treatment and care provided by our national health service.