Column: Breast Cancer Screening

The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 5th July:

Last week down in Westminster I asked the Government in the House of Commons to make time for a discussion on what more we can do to tackle breast cancer.

And since then, I’ve applied for my own parliamentary debate on the issue.

Rates are rising rapidly, and one in seven women will be diagnosed with the disease at some point in their lifetime.

It’s more common in women than men, but there was around 55,000 people diagnosed in total in 2015 alone.

As the most common cancer in the UK, it’s so important we do everything we can to tackle it.

Part of an effective approach against breast cancer is early diagnosis.

Catching the disease as early as possible gives people the best chance of cure and increases survival rates.

Some breast cancers are first spotted by women, but most will be caught by screening.

And a resident of Barnsley is calling for the NHS’ screening programme to be extended to allow more women to access mammograms that could be lifesaving.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer at 46, 4 years below the age required to take part in the NHS Breast Screening Programme.

Despite this devastating news, she has launched a petition which has over 26,000 signatures across the country – including over 1,000 from here in Barnsley.

I have so much admiration for her as she bravely uses her experience to push for progress and ensure nobody else is forced to endure the same.

So that’s why I took her message to Parliament, and called on the Government to hold a debate on this issue so we can properly discuss the medical evidence and decide what more can be done to increase early diagnosis.

There are other issues affecting cancer rates.

Around one in every four cancers is fully preventable simply by virtue of lifestyle change and being as healthy as possible, for example.

But some simply aren’t, and where prevention is impossible early diagnosis is vital.

A discussion on the medical evidence and what more we can do to increase instances of early diagnoses is, to put it simply, a matter of life and death for many.

I hope we’ll have the opportunity for this conversation in Parliament soon.