Tuesday, 24 March 2015

9. UK Cancer Survival Rates Lag behind Europe

     Cancer survival rates in the UK are still lagging more than two decades behind those achieved in many European countries, a new global study and analysis by MacMillan Cancer Support shows.  The chances of surviving lung, breast, colon and stomach cancers in the UK trail are presently at least a decade behind many comparable European and Scandinavian countries.
      While the analysis acknowledged there had been improvements in rates in the UK over the past 40 years, during which time  cancer survival has doubled, the rates were not enough to catch up with levels achieved in many European countries a decade earlier.  By comparison UK cancer survival rates were “stuck in the 1990s”.  
     Lung cancer provided the most disturbing UK example, with only 7% of patients surviving in the 1990s. The rate improved to 10% a decade later but this was still behind a 14% survival rate achieved in Austria in the 1990s. By the 2000s 18% of patients diagnosed with lung cancer in Austria survived – almost twice the rate in the UK.
     A similar pattern for breast cancer emerged from the study. In the past decade the survival rate was 81% in the UK – a level exceeded 10 years before in Sweden, France and Italy. For colon cancer six European countries (Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden) had better survival rates in the 1990s than Britain achieved 10 years later. In the 2000s 19% of British patients diagnosed with stomach cancer survived. Better survival rates were recorded a decade earlier in Austria, Germany, Italy, Norway and Sweden.
     A MacMillan spokesperson said the figures showed that much better survival rates were achievable in the UK.  C.E.O Lynda Thomas called on politicians to “make cancer a top health priority and commit to improving UK cancer survival rates and outcomes in order to match the best in Europe”. She continued:  “Because UK cancer survival rates are lagging so far behind the rest of Europe, people are dying needlessly. Frankly, this is shameful. If countries like Sweden, France, Finland and Austria can achieve these rates, then the UK can and should, bridge the gap.”

Source: Matthew Weaver, Guardian, 24 March 2015.

    As I pointed out in my 21 January blog, 'Self Help in Cancer Diagnosis and Prevention', we can and should help ourselves in cancer diagnosis and treatment by being better informed about symptoms, (pick up leaflets from your local pharmacist or check online), being less afraid of cancer, and more willing to get ourselves tested. 
     We can also do much to prevent the onset of a number of cancers by adopting a healthier lifestyle and diet.  "The links between cancer and smoking, heavy drinking, obesity, poor diet and lack of exercise are now clinically well established",  Dr. Ian Hampson, of the Institute of Cancer Sciences has pointed out. 
     We ignore those links at our peril.

Monday, 2 March 2015

8. Fury at Saatchi Bill's Commons Veto by Lib Dems.

So completely does the Government dominate the business of the legislature that the chances of a backbench parliamentarian getting a Bill onto the Statute Book are always remote. But it did look like Lord Saatchi might buck the trend with his Medical Innovation Bill, which would allow doctors to test new drugs on seriously ill patients without the fear of being sued.
The measure was fully debated in the House of Lords, where amendments were made at the Government’s behest to improve the drafting and introduce safeguards. All that remained was for it to go through the House of Commons in a race against time before Parliament is dissolved next month for the election. However, the Lib Dems have now vetoed the legislation and without government time it cannot possibly become law. has a duty not to pass bad law, say critics of the Bill. This, though, is not a bad law. It is intended to be helpful and the opposition to it is hard to understand. If unconvinced MPs — reflecting the views of some patients groups and charities — think the measure is flawed then surely it should be debated in the Commons, which has little enough to do at the moment as it is, and not simply blocked.

Lord Saatchi is understandably aggrieved at the way this has been handled since his motivation was the tragic death of his wife Josephine Hart from ovarian cancer.
The Liberal Democrats’ decision to stop MPs voting on a new law to allow doctors to test treatments on dying patients is “odd and wrong”, Labour has said.
The comments from Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, leave Nick Clegg's party politically isolated over its controversial decision to withdraw support for the Medical Innovation Bill.
Mr Burnham criticised the decision as “strange” and said the LibDems should have entered talks with Labour and the Tories to iron out any concerns.
He told The Daily Telegraph: “I am disappointed that the Liberals have done this – there should at least have been some cross-party talks about this, at the very least.
“The Bill was heavily amended and extra safeguards put in, and I worry a little bit that those who are opposed to it don’t realise that it is actually quite a different Bill now.”
Mr Burnham said that the Bill had offered hope to desperate parents of seriously ill or dying children.
He said: “For parents like them nothing is available and they have no hope, it [the Bill] is about opening up hope.
“It is often parents who struggle to get their voice heard – they often don’t get much parliamentary time or much focus.
“Norman’s move is odd and wrong, because just to give it an airing would help get some focus on the awful position many of these parents find themselves in.”
Margaret Hodge, a senior Labour MP, said the Bill provided “clarity and certainty for patients and doctors at the point of treatment, and enable doctors to innovate confidently”.
Peers also expressed their anger on the floor of the House of Lords on Monday that the legislation had been effectively axed without a vote by MPs.
David Cameron, the Prime Minister who had supported the Bill, said Mr Clegg and the LibDems would have to defend their decision.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The Prime Minister has expressed his support for this – there were changes that were made during its passage through the Lords, with regard to safeguards.
“He has argued for it to go ahead and those who have come to it differently will have to explain their position."

Source: Daily Telegraph 2 March. Christopher Hope, Chief Political correspondent.

7. Lib Dem's "Death Sentence to Cancer Patients"

     The father of a terminally-ill boy has accused the Liberal Democrats of being "spineless" after they killed off a new law to allow doctors to test new cancer drugs.
Lord Saatchi’s Medical Innovation Bill, which was supported by Caring Cancer Trust, would have allowed doctors to test cutting edge new treatments on patients to help find cures for cancer and other serious illnesses.  However Norman Lamb, Lib Dem Health Minister, wrote to Jeremy Hunt, the Tory Health Secretary, informing him that that the Lib Dems would not support the Bill despite it passing through the House of Lords.
Lord Saatchi’s Bill started life as a Private Members’ Bill in the House of Lords.  It won government and media support last year after  new safeguards were introduced following lengthy consolations and debates in the Lords. It  was to have been debated by MPs on 27 February in a race to ensure it was put onto the statute books before MPs break for the election campaign. However it was pulled at the 11th hour.
“They have killed the Medical Innovation Bill,” Lord Saatchi on hearing the news. “It is dead. By killing the Bill they have killed the hopes of thousands of cancer patients. It is as simple as that. 
"Nick Clegg has handed down a death sentence to cancer patients. It is an extraordinary turn of events.
“This is a grotesque insult to the House of Lords. Lord Saatchi, who lost his wife to cancer, continued. "The Liberal Democrats are saying that the House of Commons will never debate this Bill, which has been sent to the Commons after the House of Lords had passed it.
“I have no difficulty putting this at Nick Clegg’s door. I am very happy to stand that on him. There is no doubt that he has authorised the letter.
“One day he will feel very guilty about this I imagine. To do what he has done, to kill all these people’s hopes, is something that will haunt him.”

Source: Daily Telegraph 28 February. Christoher Hope, Chief Political correspondent

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