Wednesday 14th December 2016

Every year, policy-makers, clinicians and patients gather at Britain Against Cancer in Westminster to talk about what progress has been made for cancer services across the UK and what still needs to be done.

This year, we worked with Cancer Research UK on two breakout sessions about early diagnosis and prevention. Our fantastic Education and Awareness Managers, Lindsay Wilson and Louise Sampson, spoke about how their team is helping to tackle these issues.

Early diagnosis

Dr Anne Mackie from Public Health England chaired this session; she has almost 20 years of experience in public health and is now the Director of Programmes for the UK National Screening Committee.

Louise explained how our Education and Awareness team has expanded in the last year to cover four different audiences: as well as talking to young people without cancer in schools, we’re now focusing on adult influencers, health professionals and young people with cancer. By reaching out to the professionals who might come into contact with teenagers and young adults with cancer, we can help them to develop the skills needed to provide the age-appropriate care that young people require. In fact, we’re currently working with the Royal College of GPs to explore how we can help health professionals to understand the needs of teenage cancer patients.

Kathryn Weir from Cancer Research UK also spoke in the session. She took the audience through the development of the new bowel cancer screening programme, showing us how all the different elements of the project, from the kit design to the advertising process, come together to generate impact. Lastly, Dr Sam Hare, a radiologist at the Royal Free NHS Foundation Trust, described a new technique for lung biopsies, explaining how this could lead to an earlier diagnosis for patients.

Prevention

Sharon Hodgson MP, the Shadow Minister for Public Health, chaired our session on prevention. She spoke about the importance of cancer prevention but acknowledged there isn’t a ‘silver bullet’ which will solve the problem.

Lindsay spoke about how Teenage Cancer Trust’s Education and Awareness Programme helps to empower young people, giving them the knowledge to understand and prevent cancer. Recent research by the University of Stirling showed that after one of our school-based interventions recognition among young people of signs of cancer rose by up to 30% and recognition of cancer risks rose by up to 26%. Perhaps most importantly, young people felt more confident about talking about cancer with their families and friends, breaking the taboo and helping others to be take control of their health.

We also heard from Eustace de Sousa, from Public Health England, who spoke about childhood obesity and the health risks it can lead to. He said that obesity was becoming more of a problem in our schools and tackling it would have a very significant effect on cancers in later life. Professor John Britton closed the session by speaking about how to help smokers without increasing inequality.

Main conference

Along with our breakout sessions, there was plenty to keep the Policy team busy as we attended the rest of the conference, which included keynote speeches, an expert panel and an exhibition of stands from other charities and organisations.

Teenage and young adult cancer was high on the agenda of the conference’s expert panel discussion, which highlighted the specific needs of young people with cancer in relation to post-treatment support and access to clinical trials. 

For the keynote speech we heard from NHS England CEO, Simon Stevens, who announced a £200mn investment into diagnostic capacity, survivorship and follow-up pathways. We also had the opportunity to hear from David Mowat MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health, and Jon Ashworth MP, the new Labour Shadow Secretary of State for Health, as they outlined their parties’ plans for cancer services. 

A big thanks to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer for hosting another brilliant and thought-provoking Britain Against Cancer Conference – we’re looking forward to taking part again in 2017.  If you want to find out more about our day, or about our Policy work in general, please do get in touch!