The Socialist 9 May 2018 |
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Breast cancer screening scandal - more funding to stop deaths needed now!
Cancer is on the rise while funding is falling (Click to enlarge)
Sue Powell, Gloucestershire Socialist Party
Tory ministers seldom apologise. Women over 70 - the most likely to die of breast cancer - are still not routinely screened, just as young women are not screened for cervical cancer.
Yet Health Minister Jeremy Hunt tweeted: "My thoughts today with the thousands of women and families affected by failures in our breast cancer screening programme", claiming a computer glitch that occurred in 2009 has meant 450,000 women aged 68-71 had not been invited to screening since then.
He says 270 women may have died as a consequence. Experts dispute his conclusions, saying his figures do not add up and there are bigger issues around cancer care and women's health.
Massive lobbying was required before May agreed to an inquiry into faulty vaginal surgical mesh implants. According to three-yearly studies the UK has poor cancer survival rates compared to most developed countries, for example a third lower than Sweden.
People in the UK attend screenings less frequently and are reluctant to visit their busy, overworked GPs with early symptoms which GPs often fail to see, or diagnose too late. In deprived areas, patients are more likely to arrive in hospital with late-stage cancers, that are harder to treat and less likely to be survivable.
An estimated 10,000 more lives could be saved if UK performance equalled the best in Europe.
Diagnosis, forms of treatment and survival rates vary across the country and tend to be better for the rich. Parliamentary committees scrutinising cancer services in different areas found there was no uniform system for monitoring performance - if any!
Armies of women baking cakes, going on runs and so on have increased breast cancer awareness and spending into research and palliative care. Charities step in where public funding is cut.
The UK spends 1%-2% less of its GDP on health than its neighbours and has lung cancer survival rates only slightly better than Bulgaria. Since 2009 the NHS has received 3% less each year than it needs.
The NHS lacks the funding to tackle the multiple known causes of cancer or pay for better cancer drugs, research or public health. Tens of thousands of people are dying early.
We don't need apologies from the arch privatiser Jeremy Hunt - we need funding!