Cancer Services

Question Time — Scottish Executive – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 13 March 2003.

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Photo of Scott Barrie Scott Barrie Labour 2:30, 13 March 2003

To ask the Scottish Executive how it will ensure the early diagnosis and treatment of male cancers. (S1O-6640)

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

"Cancer in Scotland: Action for Change" sets out a variety of measures that are aimed at improving prevention, earlier detection and more rapid diagnosis and treatment for all cancers.

Photo of Scott Barrie Scott Barrie Labour

I am sure that the minister will agree that Scottish males are far less likely to visit their general practitioners than women are. What steps is the Scottish Executive taking to break down that reluctance to seek medical help? How can we persuade men that checking on their health is not a sign of weakness and is essential if we are to improve Scottish males' recovery rates from all forms of cancer?

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

I agree that it is important that men take more responsibility for their health. There are various initiatives that will help in that regard. The information initiative that will be mentioned in answer to a subsequent question is part of that. It will help men to be better informed about cancer issues.

Improving access is very important as well. I recently came across an example of that. A men's health clinic will soon be set up in the north-west Edinburgh local health care co-operative. It will support men from parts of my constituency and from parts of Margaret Smith's. It will be nurse led. It is an innovative example of the new kinds of services that we want to be developed in primary care. Improving access in that way is important.

Photo of Mary Scanlon Mary Scanlon Conservative

I put on record the appreciation of those who attended the Scotland against cancer conference last Friday for the Presiding Officer's speech about being a cancer patient. Given that men are reluctant to attend their doctor to present early with symptoms, as Scott Barrie has said, I ask the minister to ensure that GPs and local national health service teams are included in the early detection of male cancer. I also ask that the excellent work that is being carried out by Dr Barlow, who is a GP in Glasgow, be built on.

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

I agree entirely with what Mary Scanlon said about the Presiding Officer, who gave a very informative and moving speech at the conference on Friday. The new guidance that was sent out to GPs last year included the new advice about the prostate-specific antigen test for prostate cancer. If men want that, they can certainly get it, but they must have a discussion about the complexities of the issue. We are committed to that, as is George Barlow, the GP in Glasgow whom Mary Scanlon mentioned, who is very much involved in redesigning cancer services. There have been big reductions in the time for first appointments because of the redesigning of cancer services in south Glasgow. That is another important part of progress on earlier diagnosis.

Photo of Brian Fitzpatrick Brian Fitzpatrick Labour

Does the minister agree that one of the conclusions that emerged from the Scotland against cancer conference was that access to support and information, especially communication, is essential? Will he look at the work of CancerBACUP and the Maggie's centres on securing better male participation, given that information and support can also assist treatment?

Photo of Malcolm Chisholm Malcolm Chisholm Labour

I join Brian Fitzpatrick in paying tribute to the work of the voluntary sector in relation to cancer. I highlighted that more than once in my speech at the conference on Friday. CancerBACUP in particular makes a large contribution in the field of information. As Brian Fitzpatrick said, it is important that we ensure that men are accessing such information as well. We need to examine that issue and we will be discussing it again shortly.