Monday saw the 20th annual World Cancer Day. Having watched my mother die of cancer when I was five, and then cared for my seven-year old daughter through chemotherapy and radiotherapy, cancer is a personal issue for me.
It affects almost all of us at some time in our lives. My daughter is now grown up and fully recovered thanks to wonderful NHS staff and effective treatment. But still too many people don’t recover from cancer.
I’ve been very moved at the way some of my local friends and acquaintances have shared their stories, helping to raise awareness of the daily realities of living with cancer, even when they are given the terrible truth of a terminal diagnosis.
We also have some fantastic charities who support people with cancer in High Peak. Blythe House Hospice is so much more than a hospice, with information, advice, counselling and support groups. And the award-winning Mummy’s Star Glossop based charity for families whose mother has cancer.
Whilst we have better treatments and support, too many people in High Peak are dying from cancer. Around 600 people a year are diagnosed with cancer each year and there are around 270 deaths.
I’ve been working with Cancer Research UK to find out the key problems in our area.
Early diagnosis of cancer gives the best chance of survival, but only just over half of cancers in High Peak (52%) are diagnosed at stage 1 or 2. This is a far cry from the government’s aim of 75%.
A fifth of patients only see their doctor when their cancer is at a late stage and much harder to treat.
If you’re worried about a possible symptom of cancer, please do see your GP. You can also ask for advice from 111, visit the New Mills walk-in centre, or Buxton Minor Injuries Unit, or make an out-of-hours appointment at George St in Glossop .
And please attend any screening you are offered. Only 63% of people aged 60 – 74 in High Peak take part in bowel cancer screening. It’s a problem that people are asked to go to Chesterfield for follow-up from bowel screening and I’ve taken this up with health commissioners as it’s too far. Do let me know if this happens to you.
Cervical screening isn’t pleasant, but it can actually prevent cancer; I pay tribute to the work of Jo’s Trust locally to raise awareness.
We also need to increase the cancer workforce as 1 in 10 diagnostic posts are vacant. We saw the problems caused when Stepping Hill had to close breast services to High Peak patients and I’m pleased they are now back.
Cancer is a terrible disease, but by raising awareness and fighting for local services I hope that more people will have a happier outcome.