Breast Cancer

– in the Scottish Parliament on 4th February 2016.

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Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

5. To ask the First Minister what action the Scottish Government is taking to stop deaths from breast cancer. (S4F-03218)

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

We recently announced a £450,000 joint partnership with Breast Cancer Now. That will allow more Scottish-led research into breast cancer development to take place, which will help to enhance our knowledge and treatment of the disease.

In addition, our £39 million detect cancer early programme is focused on diagnosing cancer at an early stage, when the chances of survival are higher, so that we can help to save more lives every year. Currently, the number of people in Scotland who live for at least five years after a cancer diagnosis has reached a record high.

We are also committed to publishing a new cancer strategy to ensure that real improvements are made to services, and we are currently working with stakeholders and patients to develop that by spring this year. That will include further investment in cancer services.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

The First Minister will be aware of the 2050 challenge campaign that was launched this week by Breast Cancer Now. As a breast cancer survivor myself, I know how crucial that campaign is. However, I am one of the lucky ones. The First Minister will have seen earlier this week Colin Leslie’s heart-breaking account of the loss of his fiancée, Sharon, to breast cancer. No one should have to go through what he has been through, but thousands will, and for years to come, if we do not act now.

Will the First Minister agree to meet me, Colin Leslie and other campaigners to discuss how the Scottish Government can further support efforts to stop by 2050 women and men dying from breast cancer?

The First Minister:

Yes. I thank Patricia Ferguson for her question, and I obviously acknowledge the personal experience that she brings to bear on the issue. I am happy to meet her and campaigners.

This is something that we have to work together on. If we are going to tackle not just breast cancer but all cancers, and improve survival rates, we need to do more to detect cancer earlier, which is what we are seeking to do.

I hope that my colleague Richard Lochhead will not mind my saying that I know that his wife has in the past weeks and months been promoting checking for and acting on early signs. That is important, but it is also important that we have the best cancer services to treat people as effectively as possible and—going back to the previous question—that we give people access to life-saving and life-extending drugs as often as possible. We all desperately want real progress on that: after all, I am sure that not a single one of us in the chamber has not in some way, shape or form experienced the devastation of cancer.

I am committed to making sure that we do everything that we can to make progress, and I would be delighted to have Patricia Ferguson’s expertise to help us with that.