Secondary Breast Cancer Audit

Members' Statements – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 12:00 pm on 6 December 2021.

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Photo of Carál Ní Chuilín Carál Ní Chuilín Sinn Féin 12:00, 6 December 2021

I want to speak on behalf of a number of constituents who have contacted me about the lack of data collected on secondary breast cancer. I thank them and acknowledge their commitment and drive to ensure that conditions and much-needed support are better for those with secondary breast cancer, the majority of whom are women, now and in the future.

In England and Wales, it was recently announced that a metastatic breast cancer audit will be funded to collate information on the number of people living with secondary breast cancer. In recent communications with the Minister of Health, he indicated that he had no specific plan for an audit and that data collection, coordination and application are being addressed as a central focus of the draft 10-year cancer strategy.

That is very disappointing news for patients across the North and, indeed, the island who are experiencing metastatic breast cancer. They feel that they have often been excluded. They may now face delays in accessing any treatment or specialist assistance that they will need.

According to Macmillan, secondary breast cancer diagnosis is always at stage 4, which can be treated but is incurable. The Breast Cancer Now consultation reveals that those living with secondary cancers suffer from extreme anxiety and uncertainty. We owe all cancer patients across the North optimal care.

We do not have a breast cancer audit for metastatic breast cancer, and we need to be able to access reliable data. Without an audit, it is more difficult to design and plan for services in an informed way, and, if one is achieved, it will allow us to provide patients with the support that they need. I ask the Minister to reconsider his position so that we can tailor our cancer services and treatment to all patients facing this health crisis and give them the hope that they so rightly deserve.