Britain Against Cancer 2017
Published 11 Dec 2017
Last week we attended Britain Against Cancer, an annual conference that brings together policymakers, people affected by cancer, charities, and NHS organisations to discuss cancer policy.
Getting prevention on the agenda
A lot of the discussion at the conference focused on the big challenges facing cancer services, such as staff shortages, funding not being paid to NHS Trusts on time, and long waits to see GPs. While there seem to be no easy answers to these problems, it was encouraging to hear so many people passionate about solving them.
Despite the immediate pressures on cancer services, it should not be forgotten that a proportion of some cancers are preventable – it is thought at least 1 in 4 cases of breast cancer could be prevented. We welcome the speech from the Shadow Secretary of State, Jon Ashworth, who highlighted the role of cancer prevention and argued that public health funding, including at the local level, is vital in tackling rising cancer incidence rates.
However, the primary prevention of cancer did not feature prominently enough in discussions at the conference. In part, this may be because prevention policies are likely to originate in different government departments and agencies. The role Public Health England and the Department of Health in cancer prevention is obvious, but there is also a role for other departments, such as the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in chemicals regulation, and the Department for Transport in cutting air pollution and enabling more people to travel on foot and by bicycle. We need to break down these policy silos and foster more co-operation on prevention.
At the conference, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer (APPG) released a report on its inquiry into the progress that has been made on achieving the targets set out in the England Cancer Strategy. Again we were disappointed to see a lack of discussion of cancer prevention in the report, despite our submission to the inquiry.
We are working hard to raise the profile of primary prevention and want to ensure that it is on the agenda for debate at Britain Against Cancer 2018.
Raise the profile of prevention in Parliament
Jim Shannon MP has tabled two Parliamentary motions on breast cancer prevention, which highlight the need more research into the causes of breast cancer and a proper strategy for prevention.
You can write to your MP through our website and ask them to support these motions. It will help raise awareness of the primary prevention of breast cancer in Parliament. Thank you to everyone who has already emailed their MP.