Breast Cancer Parliamentary Group Launch Patient Report

Co-Chair of the APPG on Breast Cancer and local MP Craig Tracey helped launch a new report on the treatment received by cancer patients. 

The report published a number of findings:

Screening attendance inconsistent across England – with uptake in West Midlands falling 5.1% in the last decade

The report revealed that in the West Midlands in 2016-17, 71.2% of women invited to screening attended within six months, surpassing the national target of 70%. However, the report worryingly shows that, despite meeting the national target, screening uptake in the West Midlands has fallen sharply by 5.1% in the last ten years, reflecting the concerning countrywide decline.

Women between the ages of 50 and 70 are invited for routine mammograms every three years as part of the NHS Breast Screening Programme. A major independent review in 2012 showed that NHS breast screening prevents 1,300 deaths from breast cancer each year, with around a third of all breast cancers in the UK – roughly 16,000 cases a year – diagnosed through the Programme.

Despite local variation in early detection, West Midlands is performing better than other major regions in England
Depending on where they live, the report found that women in the best-performing areas are over twice as likely to have their breast cancer detected at an earlier more treatable stage.

Despite some variation between CCGs, overall the West Midlands performed above the national average (71%) for early detection, with 73.6% of breast cancers detected at early, more treatable stages (stage 1 and 2). In Birmingham Cross City CCG – the highest-performer in the region for early detection – 30% more breast cancers were diagnosed at early stages than elsewhere in England.

The earlier breast cancer is detected and diagnosed, the greater the chances of survival. 90% of breast cancer patients diagnosed at stage 1 survive for five years, compared to just 15% diagnosed at stage 4, when the cancer has spread to other parts of the body and has become incurable.

Variation in mortality rates – with women more likely to die from breast cancer under the age of 75 in some parts of the West Midlands
Around 42,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in England each year. But today’s report highlights that where a woman lives, her ethnicity and demographic characteristics can significantly affect her outcome, with women in the most extreme cases more than twice as likely to die from breast cancer under the age of 75 as those living elsewhere.

Mortality rates in the West Midlands varied from as low as 18.9 per 100,000 people dying from breast cancer before the age of 75 in Wolverhampton CCG, to as high as 30.0 people per 100,000 in Redditch & Bromsgrove CCGThe average rate for England as a whole was 19.8 people per 100,000 of the population dying before the age of 75 as a result of breast cancer.

Action is needed to address geographical variation

Following the report’s publication, Craig Tracey MP and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Breast Cancer is calling on NHS England and Public Health England to urgently address the stark geographical variation in breast cancer services by:

  • improving the consistency, transparency and accountability of breast cancer services through new NHS structures (called Cancer Alliances)
  • addressing the “demographic time bomb” in the breast cancer workforce, ensuring clear plans are published to address critical shortages in both diagnostics and nursing
  • ensuring data is finally collected effectively across the country to drive service improvements, to support the development of tailored local prevention, awareness and screening initiatives 

Craig Tracey, MP for North Warwickshire and co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Breast Cancer, said: 

“Our report uncovers widespread differences in the diagnosis, treatment and care of women with breast cancer, based on where they live.

“The number of women being diagnosed with breast cancer is steadily increasing and local NHS services must be fully resourced to meet this demand.

“It’s really encouraging that the West Midlands as a whole is meeting national screening targets and is above the national average for early detection. But this report unearths wide variation across the country and we must ensure the worst-performing CCGs in the region are brought in line with the best, where local innovation is already driving real progress.

“While such variation across the region exists, we’re falling short of the Government’s ambition of world-class outcomes for all cancer patients. We call on NHS England and Public Health England to work with the West Midlands Cancer Alliance to ensure they receive the support they need to meet this challenge.”