Thank you for contacting me about breast cancer.
Every effort is being made to continue raising awareness of breast cancer and to improve the treatment of all those diagnosed with this disease.
Breast cancer survival rates have improved remarkably over the last 40 years, with five-year survival rates for women at over 86 per cent, up from just 53 per cent in the 1970s. This is a testament to the efforts made to raise awareness of, and boost funding into tackling this disease.
I am glad the Public Health England campaign, Be Clear on Cancer, continues to raise awareness of breast cancer among women over 70, who account for roughly 1 in 3 cases of the disease. First launched in 2014, the campaign drives awareness around key symptoms of breast cancer, encouraging thinking, acting, and treating early.
Great efforts are being made to improve cancer services and to ensure that the NHS continues to provide some of the world’s best cancer care. The NHS has launched the National Cancer Programme which is committed to offering uniquely tailored cancer treatment to all patients with breast cancer by the end of 2020. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has also updated its guidance on diagnosing and treating breast cancer. This guidance aims to help healthcare professionals offer the right treatments to people diagnosed with breast cancer, taking into account their individual preferences which I am encouraged will significantly improve patient experience and quality of care.
I am aware that some NHS services, including screening appointments for Breast Cancer, were necessarily slowed down or paused to enable resources to be used in the ongoing fight against coronavirus. Since 28 April, NHS services have been reopening, including cancer care and, as part of that, cancer teams across the country have been working extremely hard to deliver services in a safe way that does not put patients at risk of exposure to coronavirus. I urge anybody who has any concerns to contact their GP immediately. I hope it is of some reassurance that the vast majority of cancers detected through screening programmes are at a very early stage and so any impact on patients who were due to be screened is extremely low. I understand that more than 400,000 women were invited for breast screening between June and August, with thousands more invitations being sent every month. I strongly encourage anybody who receives an invitation to book an appointment.
The Integrated Review and Comprehensive Spending Reviews will conclude in the autumn, although I am not in a position to pre-empt their conclusions.
With regard to after care, I am glad that the NHS is committed to ensuring that people live well with and beyond cancer, which remains a priority area within the Cancer Strategy. NHS England are reviewing good practice approaches to reduce and manage the long term consequences of cancer treatments.
It is encouraging that, as part of the annual £1 billion funding for the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) from the Government each year, £882 million has been spent on cancer research since 2010 through the National Institute for Health Research, with annual spending on cancer research up by over £35 million since 2010. The indispensable contribution made by charities in driving forward research into cancer should also be recognised, with Cancer Research UK alone spending £45 million on breast cancer over the last financial year.
These measures form just part of the NHS’s ambitious wider strategy to improve cancer outcomes. The NHS Long Term Plan (LTP) was published in January 2019 and commits to improving detection, with more targeted screening and Rapid Access Diagnostic Centres, so that in 10 years’ time these measures will help achieve 55,000 more people surviving cancer each year.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.