THURROCK MP, Jackie Doyle-Price rose on the floor of the House of Commons to discuss treatment on lung cancer.
Ms Doyle-Price said: “It has always been a mystery to me why we spend £200 a year on an MOT for our car but do not do the same for our own health. But I will come to the issue of screening in a moment.
I first want to tackle some of the specific points about lung cancer that my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup raised. As he said, it is one of the most common and serious types of cancer, with 44,500 people diagnosed every year in the UK. Early diagnosis is key but, as he said, in the early stages there are not necessarily signs or symptoms, which is why diagnosis can often come too late. We need to raise public awareness and people need to be vigilant.
The issue of smoking is a very important one. It says here in my brief that smoking is the leading cause of avoidable cancers, particularly lung cancer—that is true, but because it is true it has led to a stigma around the disease, and because of its close association to smoking, many people, even if only subconsciously, view it as a self-inflicted disease. As we can see, that was not the case for my right hon. Friend, but it is very unfair to reach such prejudiced judgments about what is a very unpleasant disease.
As was the case with my right hon. Friend, 15% of lung cancer patients are non-smokers, yet an international survey by the Global Lung Cancer Coalition revealed that a quarter of people in the UK had less sympathy for people with that illness than for those with other forms of cancer. It is clear that lung cancer is not just a smoker’s disease, yet some people believe that that stigma is one of the reasons that lung cancer does not receive the level of research funding that other cancers enjoy. When it comes to cancer research, we know that as well as Government funding there is lots of voluntary funding, and for as long as that prejudice exists, lung cancer will not attract as much investment.
It is important, however, that we continue to spend money on research because, as my right hon. Friend has pointed out, lung cancer survival rates are poor and, although overall cancer survival rates are at an all-time high, some cancers have a five-year survival rate of less than 20%. That is why the Government are supporting the less survivable cancers taskforce, which the Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend Steve Brine, launched last year and which will look specifically at lung cancer, but also liver cancer—which I suspect suffers from the same stigma—brain, pancreatic and stomach cancer. It will focus on encouraging more research into less survivable cancers. My right hon. Friend also referred to the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, which does fantastic work to raise awareness of the disease, and I thank it for its work.
By way of an aside, if people are diagnosed with lung cancer, that tends to be all people see. I had a relative who died of emphysema, but he was a smoker. His death certificate pointed out that the cause of death was emphysema due to smoking. It ignored the fact that he had spent most of his working life in mills, where he would have inhaled various things. That is something that Mr Cunningham touched on, and it is close to my heart because of my own experience, as well as that of my right hon. Friend.
On screening, the United Kingdom national screening committee advises Ministers and the NHS in all four nations about screening policy. At the moment, systematic population screening for lung cancer is not recommended, owing to a lack of evidence that it will save lives. There is a considerable amount of research worldwide on CT screening for high-risk groups, such as smokers and ex-smokers. In the Manchester pilots, NHS England offered free health checks and on-the-spot scans to smokers and ex-smokers in Manchester, as my right hon. Friend has explained, as a result of which 46 cases of cancer were discovered. There is evidence that we can achieve things by intervening, and that is something that we should look at. NHS England is encouraged by the results. As my right hon. Friend Mr Vaizey has said, by reaching diagnosis early, we take cost out of the NHS. What is not to like about that? We will look at it further.
“I am running out of time, but the Floor belongs to my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup, who is now trying to intervene on me”.
The full debate can be seen here