Thank you for your email regarding breast cancer services. I completely agree that it’s vitally important that every effort is made to continue raising awareness of breast cancer and to tackle this disease which has taken so many lives over the years.
In 2015, Public Health England launched ‘Be Clear on Cancer’, a national scheme which has significantly improved awareness of breast cancer. This has contributed to improved diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, although I recognise that there is significant variation in survival rates across different regions and demographics. I hope initiatives like ‘Be Clear on Cancer’ will encourage more people to talk about cancer and help groups of women with traditionally poorer survival rates for breast cancer recognise symptoms earlier and quickly approach their doctor.
I know that the Government is making great efforts to improve cancer services. The NHS has launched the National Cancer Programme which is committed to offering uniquely tailored cancer treatment to all patients with breast cancer by 2020. It’s working closely with Health Education England and Macmillan Cancer Support to understand the best ways of developing and implementing cancer services by the same date.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is also updating its guidelines on the diagnosis and management of breast cancer. These guidelines will cover the use of adjuvant bisphosphonates and other cancer drugs and will be published in July 2018.
Mandatory mammograms play a key part in the early diagnosis of breast cancer which is central to the Government's ambition of achieving world-class cancer outcomes. The breast cancer screening programme is currently offered to all women between the ages of 50 and 70, and the NHS is trialling expanding compulsory screening to women aged between 47 and 73. This trial began in 2009 and is expected to run until the mid-2020s until the NHS has sufficient information to understand its effectiveness.
The NHS is also implementing the independent Cancer Taskforce's recommendation that all breast cancer patients should receive access to a Clinical Nurse Specialist and other key workers. This will enable greater detection of any recurrence or secondary breast cancer and enable a quick and effective return to care.
I’m happy to say that progress is being made. For example, there were 21 million diagnostic tests for cancer and nearly 2 million people were seen by a specialist for suspected cancer in 2017, which is double the amount in 2010. However, I appreciate that there is always more that can be done and I hope that I’ve been able to reassure you that the Government is taking this issue very seriously indeed.
Thank you once again for taking the time to contact me.
With best wishes.