Members of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Ovarian Cancer yesterday debated the lack of awareness of symptoms of ovarian cancer in a Westminster Hall debate. The hour and a half debate, in front of Care Services Minister, Paul Burstow, was secured for the group by Pudsey MP Stuart Andrew (pictured here meeting his constituent Chris Shagouri).
14 MPs managed to speak, representing the main political parties, and their constituencies right across the UK. Many cited cases of ovarian cancer in their families or constituents, all too often diagnosed late, and all urged the Minister to extend the current work being done to improve awareness of cancer symptoms to include ovarian cancer as a matter of urgency.
Winchester MP Steve Brine (Conservative) described the lack of awareness and progress in ovarian cancer as 'a silent national scandal' and Cardiff West MP Kevin Brennan (Labour) gave a passionate account of how Ministers can bring about change.
"As all former Ministers know... we get our submissions from officials, turning up at Adjournment debates, reading out the speech that has been provided and then carrying on as before. The Minister cannot do this after today's debate. He must go back and say to his officials, " I want, fresh on my desk, as soon as possible, a new strategy for raising awareness around ovarian cancer, because what we have now is not good enough.""
Vice Chair of the APPG Tim Farron MP (Liberal democrat) described the impact of losing his mother to ovarian cancer some 7 years ago. He reminded the Minister of this really good opportunity to save lives - he described ovarian cancer as 'low hanging fruit' in terms of the rapid ability to raise awareness.
Slough MP Fiona Mactaggart (Labour) gave a very personal account of her own diagnosis and treatment. She said she would have been dead were it not for a very insightful GP. Only some time after her treatment had ended, did she realise the symptoms she had been experiencing were even connected to ovarian cancer. She also praised the role of the voluntary sector in cancer care.
Target Ovarian Cancer supporters featured strongly, with particular mentions for Eilish Colclough, Hazel Burrows and Chris Shagouri. They together with the many women who have met their MPs at our receptions, or attended meetings of the All Party Parliamentary Group have made a huge impact.
Care Services Minister, Paul Burstow responded at the end of the debate, agreeing to meet members of the APPG to discuss this further, and indicating that a pilot for an ovarian cancer awareness campaign was to be considered. He also said he would take forward an idea for consideration raised by Romsey MP Caroline Nokes to consider giving women vital information when attending for other cancer screening services such as routine smears or mammograms.
Annwen Jones, Chief Executive of Target Ovarian Cancer, praised the MPs determination to make a difference.
"“Women in the UK are not being diagnosed quickly enough because not enough women and GPs know what symptoms to look for. As a consequence women go undiagnosed until their cancer is advanced which means it’s much harder to treat successfully.
“Target Ovarian Cancer works alongside MPs to ensure that the Government is aware of the full facts about the tragedy of this disease which is that late diagnosis claims too many women’s lives. The Department of Health’s own figures show that 500 women’s lives could be saved each year if only the UK matched European survival rates. Today’s debate helped to drive home some of these key points with the Minister."