MP COLUMN: We can lead world on cancer diagnosis – and treatments

John Hayes with Joanna Hillier
John Hayes with Joanna Hillier
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HAYES IN THE HOUSE: By John Hayes MP

In the year 1937 the great America composer George Gershwin became ill, suffering from unbearably painful headaches and severe dizziness. Doctors initially suspected he was fatigued and so were shocked to discover a previously undetected brain tumour – one that an emergency operation revealed to be the size of a grapefruit. Gershwin died from the tumour, at the tender age of just 38.

I’ve pledged my support by becoming a Patron of their group and by taking part in their ‘Wear a Hat’ campaign

He was not unique; today, brain tumours kill more people under the age of 40 than any other cancer. With over 3,600 people dying each year from a brain tumour it is essential that we do more to raise awareness and improve diagnosis.

I was inspired by my recent meeting with Joanna Hillier from Surfleet; Joanna suffered from a brain tumour herself and following her brave recovery has decided to help others who went through the same torment by helping to set up Lincolnshire Brain Tumour Support Group, who help patients, families and friends of those diagnosed with this dreadful condition.

I’ve pledged my support by becoming a Patron of their group and by taking part in their ‘Wear a Hat’ campaign. I urge others to do what they can – as we can all help raise awareness of this awful cancer.

Of course, Government too plays a key role in the fight against cancer; since 2010 NHS spending has gone up by £7 billion (spending which will rise by a further £8 billion the next five years) including investment in an extra £1 billion which has already helped more than 72,000 people access the drugs they need. Medical science is improving all the time, and so we can focus on new treatments which offer the greatest benefit to patients.

The Department of Health has spent over £450 million in the past four years working to achieve earlier diagnosis of cancer, including helping GPs to access Magnetic Resonance Imaging scans which can detect brain cancer and the latest technology such as Proton Beam Therapies. Increased support has also gone to GPs so they can help recognise the signs of tumours in children, as early referral to specialists is vital.

Five years ago Britain had some of the worst cancer mortality rates in Europe, but survival rates are generally improving and the Government is committed to doing even more to help cancer patients and their families. Last year, the NHS treated 35,000 more people for cancer and GPs referred nearly half a million more patients to see a cancer specialist than in 2009. Building on this I want to see further improvement in what can be done for those with brain tumours.

Our ambition should be no less than to be the best country in Europe for cancer diagnosis and treatment – and with the world-class research that happens in the UK, alongside the dedicated doctors and nurses on the NHS frontline, we can lead the world.

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