2 February, 2024

Fail to plan, plan to fail. Many of us will have had this drilled that into us by parents or teachers. Like most of these clichés, there’s more than a bit of truth in it.

Regarding cancer plans, it would be unfair to suggest that the Government has nothing at all. Cancer is featured in the Government’s Long Term Plan, it’s given its own section in the Women’s Health Strategy, and cancer is one of the six conditions listed in the Major Conditions Strategy.

This highlights the problem. Planning for the detection and treatment of cancer, which is what all  the above focus on, is complicated. It’s messy and not currently fit for purpose. Against this landscape, we see reports that cancer care may already be in crisis in the UK.  

It would be wrong to suggest that there are simple solutions. If there were, then the Breast Cancer UK manifesto that my colleagues and I set out to write a few months ago, would be a pamphlet. With that in mind, I don’t want to point fingers or place blame on World Cancer Day. Let’s instead talk about a simple step the Government can take to change the UK’s approach to cancer.

Our manifesto

In our manifesto, launching later this year, we are calling on the Government to reverse its decision to fold cancer into the Major Conditions Strategy. And instead go back to what it originally promised – a standalone Cancer Strategy.  

To be successful, though, this strategy must start from a different point than previous and existing plans. Breast Cancer UK estimates that around 30% of breast cancer cases in the UK can be prevented by making lifestyle changes. Across all cancers, it is believed that 4 in 10 are preventable. Therefore, prevention must be the starting point for a truly comprehensive approach to cancer. If this isn’t persuasive enough to the Government, the £2.6 billion – £2.8 Billion that breast cancer is estimated to cost the UK economy every year highlights the practical benefits of tackling not only detection and treatment but proper primary prevention. 

As our manifesto says, “the MCS is intended to have a 5-year scope, far too short to see real impacts from preventative measures.” The Major Conditions strategy cannot feasibly have the nuance and complexity a standalone Cancer Strategy would achieve. 

We don’t pretend to have every answer. One of the benefits of having a standalone Cancer Strategy would be allowing all stakeholders to bring their expertise to a comprehensive understanding of the challenges and the options available. However, the current situation is not sustainable. The Major Conditions Strategy is in real danger of stalling progress which has been made in our understanding of breast cancer and its risk factors.

We call on the Government to reinstate the Cancer Strategy.  

What can I do?

Find your MP here and ask them to back Breast Cancer UK’s call for a standalone Cancer Strategy. Don’t forget to copy in Gareth, using the address below.

Anyone wishing to know more about the Breast Cancer UK manifesto should contact the Head of Public Affairs and Campaigns. Email Gareth Lloyd-Johnson at [email protected] 

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