The New Government's Work to End Breast Cancer Must Start Here

04/06/2015 17:52 BST | Updated 04/06/2016 10:59 BST

As the dust continues to settle on a remarkable and unexpected election result, commentators remain deep in contemplation about the implications for the future of the country.

How will the first all-Conservative Government in almost two decades (particularly with such a small majority) begin to negotiate this fast-evolving, post-election political landscape to deliver real change for the economy, for health, for education and public services?

The big question for us, of course, is what will the result and the formation of this new Government mean for breast cancer patients now and in the future?

To that end, you may recall that we too held a campaign in the run-up to the election, one focused on keeping breast cancer in the minds of the politicos, and as we resurface on the other side of election fever, our Stop Women Dying campaign has made quite an impact.

We saw over 5,000 of our wonderful supporters email their local parliamentary candidates, asking them to commit to becoming a Breast Cancer Ambassador in Parliament if elected.

Following the election, thanks to you we now have 143 elected Breast Cancer Ambassador MPs in the House of Commons, ready to work with us to take more action to overcome breast cancer. That is 143 MPs committed to standing up for women and men with breast cancer, something that puts us in a really strong position to push for positive change for those affected by this dreadful disease.


In truth, our key pre-election priorities for Government action on breast cancer remain the same, post-election, and much of the work needed on the disease only begins here.

The new Cancer Strategy, which NHS England's independent Cancer Taskforce began developing before the election, will be finalised in the coming months and the implementation of its five-year plan will follow. This is obviously an incredibly important piece of work that will set the tone for the direction of cancer treatment and services over for the next few years under the new Government.

It is critical that the new strategy is used as an opportunity to give secondary breast cancer, and indeed secondary cancer in general, the focus that is currently lacking. Women living with secondary breast cancer are a distinct patient group with unique experiences and needs and it is essential that tangible actions to improve support and services in this area are embedded throughout the strategy.

Similarly, the Conservative Party were, before the election, committed to a continuation of the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) in England until April 2016. A review of the CDF is underway and we will continue to work closely with NHS England as part of this to find a longer-term, more sustainable system for drug access in England.

The first six months of this new Government's term will therefore be crucial in shaping the country's ability to support and treat breast cancer patients, and we look forward with much hope to the outcomes, the commitments and, eventually, the fruit of this work.

Uniting to put an end to the disease, once and for all

Needless to say it is also a particularly important six months for us, and for the future of breast cancer research in this country, as we prepare to launch our new charity soon.

It is hard to express quite how much the merging of these two organisations means to me. My work in the breast cancer field has always been incredibly important to me, far more than just a job; Breast Cancer Campaign, Breakthrough Breast Cancer and, more importantly, women with breast cancer are indelibly inscribed in my heart not least because of the experience of my own sister.

As such, I was truly delighted, humbled to be appointed Chief Executive of the new charity. As you may know, these two wonderful organisations both represent part of my own history. I was just thirty-three, and my daughter just four, when I was appointed Director of a small, relatively unknown organisation called Breakthrough Breast Cancer in 1996. My, has a lot happened over the last twenty years!

After 10 years at the Breakthrough helm I was invited to become a full-time working peer, an honour that coincided with a particularly difficult time, as my sister had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer.

At that point my professional interest became my personal crusade; I experienced all the uncertainty, upset and anguish that so many go through when supporting a loved one on that long treatment journey.

My passion for fighting the disease became interminable, and when the opportunity to go back and work in the field again coincided with my sister's diagnosis of secondary breast cancer, I was compelled to return to the cause - this time following the retirement of Pamela Goldberg OBE - as CEO of Breast Cancer Campaign.

Just short of four years later: what a privilege it is to be appointed to bring the two charities together to stop women dying of breast cancer for good.

We have, collectively, seen such progress on breast cancer in the UK over the last twenty years; indeed, it is almost unbelievable how far we have come. But there is still so much more to do. Back in 1996, there were 15,000 women dying of breast cancer each year, a figure that now stands at 12,000. It goes without saying that saving 3,000 lives a year, is simply not enough; 12,000 lives lost each year is just too great a number.


For me, the chance to lead this new charity is the opportunity to finish the job. Collaboration and enterprise will be essential in everything we do; we must harness the incredible progress in science and the remarkable legacies of the two charities to initiate research that will deliver more targeted treatment, using a strong and single voice to aid consistently high-quality care, early detection and prevention wherever possible.

Together, our challenge is a hugely exciting one: to create a brand new charity out of the astonishing foundations laid by Campaign and Breakthrough, one that is capable of ending breast cancer, once and for all.

But putting an end to breast cancer is not something that we will be able to do on our own. We need everyone involved in and affected by disease to stand with us. For it is absolutely not a done deal.12,000 women are still losing their lives each year, and, with the help of our supporters, we truly believe that we can see breast cancer overcome and outlived by 2050.

And so, to the beloved supporters of Campaign and Breakthrough - thank you so much for your loyal and continued support. We very much look forward to continuing on this journey with you as we launch our new charity later this summer.

After all, I firmly believe that we are at our best when we are together, and these, if I may say, are very exciting times for us all.