Today we are joining with more than 50 other cancer charities to ask the Government to commit to delivering world-leading and transformative change for people with cancer.
Earlier this year, Sajid Javid announced the Government’s intention to develop a new 10-Year Cancer Plan for England, which aims to start a ‘war on cancer’ inspired by the ingenuity and endeavour demonstrated during the Covid-19 pandemic.
As part of One Cancer Voice, we have put forward 10 tests which the Government’s 10-Year Cancer Plan must meet to dramatically improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
Alongside this, we are calling for the plan to fully reflect the needs of people in Yorkshire.
Why is cancer a problem in Yorkshire?
Yorkshire is one of the regions hardest hit by cancer. Each week in Yorkshire almost 600 people are diagnosed with cancer and around 250 people sadly lose their lives.
Compared to England as a whole, Yorkshire has higher rates of cancer and cancer deaths, with some areas having some of the poorest survival statistics in the country. The area with the second lowest ranking five-year survival rate in England is in our region.
Yorkshire is home to some of the most deprived areas in the country, where fewer cancers are diagnosed early and more people die from the disease.
When it comes to diagnosing cancer at an early stage, when treatment options are wider, little improvement has been made in the region in the last seven years.
With cancer screening, GP appointments, diagnostic tests and treatment significantly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s now more important than ever that the Government provides a clear plan for the future.
We believe the new 10-Year Cancer Plan should have a key focus on tackling health inequalities, and that all measures outlined in the plan should be designed to eliminate or significantly narrow these inequalities.
We have submitted ideas and evidence to help shape the Government’s actions and ensure the voices of people in Yorkshire are heard.
Preventing cancer in Yorkshire
While many cancers are caused by things like age, genetics, family history or viruses, it’s estimated that more than 11,000 new cases of cancer diagnosed in Yorkshire each year are due to preventable or avoidable risk factors.
We recommend that:
- Stop smoking support is fully embedded within the NHS with smoking treated as an addiction rather than a lifestyle choice
- Local stop smoking services are adequately funded without being subject to further funding cuts
- National public health campaigns should be focused on the benefits of vaping as a tool to quit smoking.
- Stop smoking services are fully integrated in lung health check programmes.
- Comprehensive strategies are developed to tackle risk factors such as being overweight or obese, and alcohol consumption.
- Public health campaigns aimed at encouraging people to take part in screening are fully funded and evaluated.
Diagnosing cancer in Yorkshire
Making sure people in Yorkshire are diagnosed at the earliest possible stage is vital when it comes to saving lives.
The Government is aiming for 75% of cancers to be diagnosed at an early stage by 2028, and we support One Cancer Voice’s call for this to be extended to 78% by 2032.
But Yorkshire is currently falling far below this target. Just over half of cancers were diagnosed early in 2019, and this figure ranges from 49% to 56% across the region.
2 in 10 cancers in Yorkshire are diagnosed through an emergency route, for example by attending A&E.
We recommend that:
- New and better diagnostic methods are introduced.
- Significant investment is provided for the roll out of community diagnostic centres and in the diagnostic workforce, particularly in areas within Yorkshire that are of greatest need.
- The proposed ‘Faster Diagnosis Standard’ (FDS) is introduced, to ensure patients are diagnosed or have cancer ruled out within 28 days of being referred urgently by their GP for suspected cancer.
- Existing cancer screening programmes are improved and promoted, with an emphasis on tackling variation in screening rates on a local and national level and making screening accessible for everyone, including culturally diverse communities, LGBTQ communities and those with learning disabilities. Alternative approaches should also be tested, including weekend clinics and HPV self-testing to identify those at high risk of cervical cancer.
- More sensitive testing for bowel screening is offered to all 50 to 74-year-olds every two years.
- Lung screening is rolled out for all those aged 55 to 74 with a history of smoking.
- More funding is provided for public health campaigns, on both a local and national level, and that these campaigns should closely involve both primary care professionals and people with experience of cancer.
- Community groups and businesses, such as hairdressers, beauticians, religious leaders, pharmacies and the fire service, are provided with training in being cancer aware and promoting stop smoking campaigns and cancer awareness throughout their networks.
Treating cancer in Yorkshire
It is unacceptable that cancer survival varies so significantly between areas in Yorkshire. Of the 21 Cancer Alliances in England, the three in our region rank 11th, 12th and 20th for five-year cancer survival.
South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Cancer Alliance has the second lowest five-year survival rate in the country, with four in 100 fewer people surviving their cancer for five years compared to the best performing Cancer Alliance in England.
We recommend that:
- Exercise before, during and after cancer treatment is embedded within the NHS and is viewed as a treatment that helps improve survival outcomes, lessen the adverse effects of cancer and its treatment and may reduce the chance of the cancer coming back.
- Adequate funding is provided to support the roll-out of lynch syndrome testing, to help identify those at high risk of bowel cancer and ensure they are closely monitored.
The importance of research
Cancer research has a direct impact not only on patients involved in the research but also on those treated at research-active hospitals, which have been found to have lower cancer death rates and are likely to be able to introduce new treatments into standard practice more quickly.
Before the pandemic, access to research opportunities varied greatly across Yorkshire. According to the 2019 Cancer Patient Experience survey, the proportion of patients taking part in research within Yorkshire varied from 18% to 41%.
We recommend that:
- Research opportunities are available to all that want to take part and participation is encouraged across all patient groups and communities.
- Variation in access to clinical trials is reduced.
- Data collection and sharing is improved so that cancer research charities can strategically plan when considering areas of greatest need.
Working together as One Cancer Voice
While we are committed to tackling Yorkshire’s specific cancer problems, we are also proud to work in partnership with cancer charities across the country representing millions of people living with cancer.
Drawing on our collective experiences from supporting people living with cancer, research, data and insight, we have developed a consensus statement, setting out what actions Government and the NHS need to take to ensure people diagnosed with cancer in England get the very best care and treatment.
To find out more, read the full statement.