Cancer Strategy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:20 pm on 8th December 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill Conservative, Bury St Edmunds 4:20 pm, 8th December 2016

I, too, thank the Backbench Business Committee for allowing this debate. I also thank Nic Dakin for the way he introduced it, which has allowed us to conduct it in the tone that we have.

I came to this place after a journey with this disease, but I have been amazed since I have been here. Thangam Debbonaire has fought the disease and now sits back in her place, and very welcome that is. The news about Mr Campbell, too, is welcome. I have heard my hon. Friend Michael Fabricant talk about his journey with the disease. My best wishes go to my hon. Friend Nick Boles, who is on the journey at the moment. It is unusual not to see my hon. Friend Mr Baron in the Chamber, and my thoughts and prayers go out to him and his wife at this time.

Cancer is interesting: you don’t pick it, it picks you. We have heard from many Members that some cancers are preventable, but there are over 200 cancers. The debate often gets channelled towards rare diseases or prolific diseases such as breast cancer, prostate cancer or lung cancer—one of the big four. However, the debate we have had today is very broad, and I welcome that.

My hon. Friend David Tredinnick said we are doing better, which we are, but we could do even better, and I would like to return to the issue of research, which was brought up by my hon. Friend Rebecca Harris, to see how we might do better there.

I welcome the commitment to the strategy. Implemented, it could be transformational, which is why I hope we will hear about better implementation. The “Five Year Forward View” shows that funding for cancer services will go up by 9%, reaching £13 billion by 2020-21.

As we have heard, one in two of us will suffer from cancer by the end of this Parliament, and 2.5 million people in this country are living with the disease. A question the strategy does not necessarily address properly is how we will care for those people. How will we deal with the survivors affected by it—625,000 people will be, as was mentioned earlier—who will carry forward some form of disability or hardship from having the disease? How will we deal with palliative care? Have the sustainability and transformation plans looked into palliative care and into how we can address the needs of people who are looking towards the end of their lives?

I would also like to highlight teenage cancers, although it is usually breast cancer that I talk about in this place. I have a young friend for whom a year on means something different. She wrote to me on Sunday, after I said I was talking in this debate. I thought of her because, on 11 December last year, young Emily was diagnosed with cancer.

She said:

“Last year in December I was diagnosed with ALL Leukaemia. It was a very scary time for me and my family. But something that makes going to hospital that little bit nicer is how lovely the nurses are.

However, there were a lot of horrid bits during the start of treatment, such as hair loss and sickness.

Although, I still have two years to go of treatment to go on treatment, it is a lot less intense now I am in maintenance. The majority of chemo is in tablet form at home, one hospital visit a month and the HORRID, HORRID steroids, also once a month for five days!

I know that the steroids work as one of the main chemo therapy treatment - but they make me put on weight, feel emotional for no reason and sometimes cross and angry at my mum, who is my absolute rock and is always there for me, so that makes me feel very sad!

If I could change anything about the chemo it would definitely be;
to not feel sick and not take steroids!”

Emily is a year on in her journey. I am sure I can speak for everybody in wishing her lots of success for a great journey.

One of the best things we can do for young people is to educate them. Education is a theme that has come out of this debate. I will not go over the comments by my hon. Friend Bob Blackman and Jim Fitzpatrick about smoking, which they discussed so well, but merely say that education in that regard is important. Nor will I go over education around food and nutrition, which, as we have heard, is worked on by the Penny Brohn institute and The Haven.

Jim Shannon mentioned diet. Every oncologist I have ever had through all three of my journeys has spoken about the need to look after oneself through a good diet, keeping fit and exercise. We do our young people a disservice if we do not help them to lead better and healthier lives. I want to understand how the Minister is looking across Departments to make sure that this is addressed in the policies of the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Transport through cycle paths, trim trails, and right across the piece so that we can all lead healthier lives.

I am pleased that the industry is responding by reducing adverts for children and so on, and I would like this to go further, but parents have a huge part to play in their children’s lives. We have a huge part to play in our own lives with regard to what we eat and how we make choices about whether we smoke or have that extra beer or extra pie. There is some self-responsibility involved. If the Minister will do his bit by helping to educate people a little more through public health information, I am sure that we will step up to the mark and do our bit as well.

I welcome the setting up of cancer alliances and the appointment of Cally Palmer, the excellent head of the cancer taskforce. Early diagnosis is fundamental, as the hon. Member for Scunthorpe pointed out, because it gives us better outcomes, but the Government must set out, with NHS England, how funding will be strategically allocated. For example, will we be able to use mobile diagnostics and molecular diagnostics? I note my interest as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on personalised medicine, and vice-chair of the cancer APPG and the breast cancer APPG. If we could see who would benefit from the use of drugs, we would stop waste. For example, only 20% of women with breast cancer would benefit from Herceptin. Will the Minister address the point about the use of innovative technologies raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point?

How can we utilise the workforce in a more strategic approach? Macmillan, Cancer Research UK and 20 other organisations have developed eight principles on this. We need a workforce that is fit for the future, with people who understand the changing landscape that we are dealing with. I welcome the £130 million put into radiotherapy machines, but I would like to know that we have the radiographers who can work those machines and optimise their use.

More of us survive living with and beyond cancer, but metastatic cancer, in particular, is a type that we need to learn more about. That brings me on to the use of data. The Teenage Cancer Trust would welcome clinical trials with young people. There is a lack of data on metastatic breast cancer.