Cancer unity at Holyrood - facing the small ‘c’
Every day, around 85 people are diagnosed with cancer in Scotland.
World cancer day was marked at the Scottish Parliament by party health spokespeople, and they were joined by Claire-Ann McCallum, who was diagnosed at just 34.
She urged them to keep the messages around the famous disease positive.
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“Cancer has made me a stronger person. Staying positive got me through some dark days and right from the start I was determined to kick cancer where it hurt.
“Not every day was a good day but there have been more highs than lows. Thanks to some amazing doctors, support from friends and family who were there for me every step of the way and research then I’m healthy, loving life and still here to give something back and help other people,” she said.
Scotland has a lot of reasons to be positive around cancer. A lot of world-leading research goes on here. Universities have adopted a collaborative approach to tackle some of the most pressing medical issues of our times, and research talent from around the world has taken notice.
Principal of Glasgow University Professor Anton Muscatelli told Holyrood recently: “A team of Cancer researchers came to Scotland from Australia and North America because they said this is the best place to do cancer research in the UK, looking at the facilities.”
Some of the precision techniques here are world-leading too, with technological developments in radiotherapy being showcased in the West of Scotland at the new £22m Lanarkshire Beatson radiotherapy satellite centre, which opened in November.
And thanks to earlier detection, research breakthroughs and treatment advances, more people are surviving than ever before. Overall cancer death rates have dropped by 11 per cent in the past 10 years. A disease which was once seen as a death sentence is now survived by half of sufferers.
One of the aims for today’s campaign, which is organised by Cancer Research UK, Breast Cancer Care, Anthony Nolan and the Movember Foundation, is to reduce that figure even further by raising awareness so more people will recognise symptoms and present earlier.
Health Secretary Shona Robison said the 'wee c' campaign had been designed to reduce fear around the disease.
“Reframing the way cancer is viewed goes hand-in-hand with boosting survival rates and everyone can play a part. If we can raise awareness of what is being done to tackle cancer, we’ll hopefully, in time, be able to address the fear people have in seeing their GP or attending their screening appointment. The earlier you come forward to get checked or screened, the better, it could save your life,” she said.
However, questions remain. As health services get more centralised, is cancer detection and treatment spread equally across Scotland? And it remains a disease more prevalent among the poor. Furthermore, where is the Cancer strategy? Robison insists it will emerge “shortly”, but it is over a year late.