Thank you for contacting me about cancer.

I’m delighted that breast cancer survival rates have improved remarkably over the last 40 years, with five-year survival rates for women at over 86 per cent, up from just 53 per cent in the 1970s. This is a testament to the efforts made to raise awareness of, and boost funding into tackling this disease but more must be done.

Please be assured that every effort is being made to continue raising awareness of breast cancer and to improve the treatment of all those diagnosed with this disease.

With five-year survival rates for bowel cancer now at 59 per cent, up from just 24 per cent in the 1970s, I welcome the great progress which has been made towards improving outcomes for patients with this type of cancer. That said, more remains to be done and I am encouraged by recent action taken to improve early diagnosis of bowel cancer, a key aspect of fighting the disease.

Currently, a one-off bowel cancer screening test is available for over 55-year olds, while those aged between 60 and 74 are automatically invited to perform a home test every two years. I am encouraged that a new, easier to use, more accurate home test kit has been introduced across England, which is expected to increase participation in these home tests by 7 per cent. The Government has recently committed to lower the age restriction to ensure all those aged 50 to 74 are offered these home tests every two years, which, will help to detect the stages of bowel cancer much earlier. This will be achieved through a transition process and will begin with the expansion of the programme to include 56 year olds this year. 

In 2019, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence published new clinical guideline on pancreatic cancer, providing guidance on diagnosis, monitoring those with an inherited high risk, as well as management of the disease. I am confident that this guidance will ensure quicker and more accurate diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, as well as faster referral to treatment.

Given the low survival rates for pancreatic cancer, research into new treatments and ways to diagnose this cancer early are vital. £882 million has been spent on cancer research since 2010 through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), with annual spending on cancer research up by over £35 million since 2010. The UK Government invests £1 billion per year in health and care research through the NIHR. I also recognise the indispensable contribution made by charities in driving forward research into cancer, with Cancer Research UK alone spending £17 million on pancreatic cancer over the last financial year.

Great efforts are being made to improve cancer services and to ensure that the NHS continues to provide some of the world’s best cancer care. The NHS Long Term Plan (LTP), published in 2019, commits to improving detection, with more targeted screening and Rapid Access Diagnostic Centres, so that in 10 years’ time these measures will help achieve 55,000 more people surviving cancer each year. Further, the LTP outlines that, where appropriate, every person diagnosed with all types of cancer, including those with secondary cancers, should have access to personalised care by March 2022. Following the announcement of a £33.9 billion cash increase in the budget of NHS England, I am confident that these aims will be achieved.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.