Column: World Cancer Day

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

This week we marked World Cancer Day. This initiative was established by the Union for International Cancer Control and is vital in giving a voice and saying thank you to the nurses, doctors, researchers, volunteers, advocates, and other caregivers in oncology from around the world as well as government agencies who support the fight against cancer. This year in particular, we also pay tribute to those around the world who have worked tirelessly these past 12 months through the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the past three years the World Cancer Day theme has been “I Am, and I Will” which was chosen to encapsulate the extraordinary spirit and the strength of those facing cancer. The theme is all about each person and their personal commitment to reduce the impact of cancer.

No community is immune from the devastating impact of cancer. We all know of someone who has lost a loved one, family member, or neighbour to this devastating disease. Cancer is the second-leading cause of death across the globe with the number of new cancer cases worldwide expected to rise to 30 million by 2040.

This year has been particularly trying for international and domestic cancer research as cancer organisations around the world have experienced sharp declines in funding and operational resources due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And whilst it is vital that we tackle COVID-19 head on with all the resources that we can muster, we must not risk a further crisis down the line regarding funding for cancer research.

Last November, I spoke in parliament on the importance of a cancer recovery plan to deal with the backlog in breast cancer screening tests. Over the past few months, we have seen spiralling wait lists which has had a devastating impact on people’s health.

In response to a parliamentary question that I asked, the Government revealed that nearly 10,000 women were waiting for a breast cancer screening in Barnsley alone, and more than 30,000 women in South Yorkshire.

It is important that we all play our part in continuing to regularly check ourselves for lumps and bumps across our bodies and encouraging friends and family members to do so too.

I know many people are uneasy at attending hospital appointments due to the pandemic, but I would encourage those of you who are given an appointment to still attend. The NHS is still open for business and will continue to be available for all those who need it.