21 JUN 2018

BAME cancer rates

Too many people endure the loss of a loved one, and sadly everyone will have been affected, directly or indirectly, by the fearsome diseases we collectively call cancer. It is an issue that is close to home to every single one of us; indeed, one in two people in the UK will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives, analysis suggests. I write with personal experience on this as my husband was treated for Prostate cancer just last year.

Worryingly, awareness of cancer risks and symptoms can be lower in those of us from Black Asian Minority and Ethnic (BAME) groups and we are often less likely to go for cancer screening. This can result in cancers reaching more advanced stages when people do eventually see a GP and that makes treatment much more difficult.

In addition, people across all minority ethnic groups often report poorer experience of cancer services and indicate that there may be a real gap in provision of cancer information for these groups.

To that end I recently visited Cancer Research UK in central London, together with my co Vice-Chairman of Communities for the Conservative party, Rehman Chisti and we were very enlightened by our discussions.

By way of example; Black males are up to three times more likely to get prostate cancer than white males; Black people are nearly twice as likely as white people to get stomach cancer; Asian people are up to three times more likely to get liver cancer than the white population, Black women in England are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with advanced breast cancer as white women, and Black and Asian females aged 65 years and over, are at higher risk of cervical cancer compared with White females.

On this last point we learned at length about the positive effects that the HPV jab is having on preventing cervical cancer, with smear tests now preventing 75% of such conditions. We must ensure our BAME communities are aware of such preventative successes and encourage women to get tested early and regularly.

Meanwhile, the attack on cancer was greatly fortified when, to mark the 70th birthday of our cherished NHS, Theresa May this week announced a historic long-term funding boost and a ten year plan for the health service. This will see the NHS budget increase in real terms by over £20 billion a year, for the next five years, compared with today's budgets.

Part of the investment will be in research and development that will put our NHS at the forefront of the revolution in cancer diagnosis. £7 billion has already been allocated to the use of Artificial Intelligence for earlier diagnosis of at least 50,000 more people every year.

Our cancer treatments are world class and survival rates are at a record high, but we still have a long way to go. It is conversations, like the ones I had at Cancer Research UK, that are crucial to change.

If we can prevent diseases in the first place, through intervention at the earliest possible stage, it will free up NHS funding for other patient needs.

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This is a comment for The Voice newspaper written by Helen Grant MP within her role as Vice Chair (Communities) of the Conservative Party.

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