On 20th April a group of seven MDS (Myelodysplastic Syndromes, a rare blood cancer) patients and carers went to Westminster and attended a parliamentary reception organised by Cancer52, a coalition of more than 80 charities representing rare and less common cancers. The reception was hosted and addressed by Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer (APPGC), John Baron MP.
The purpose of the reception was to raise awareness of these cancers and highlight the need for earlier diagnosis.
Rare and less common cancers together account for more than half of all UK cancer deaths – more than the ‘big four’ (breast, prostate, lung and bowel cancer together) – and on average have poorer earlier diagnosis rates.
These seven patients and carers were invited because they are members of MDS UK Patient Support Group, one of the member charities of Cancer52:
Prof Rodney Taylor is Chairman of MDS UK, an MDS patient himself, has experienced a number of MDS treatments (supportive care, transfusions, an MDS specific drug) over the course of 5-6 years. A year ago, when he stopped responding to a life extending drug azacitidine, he had to resort to a stem cell transplant at age 71. His wife and carer, Dr Janet Taylor accompanied him. They met with their MP Dr Tania Mathias.
Reverend Kes Grant, was diagnosed with MDS 16 years ago, at age 35. Following a gradual but serious deterioration of her health and quality of life, she too is now facing the prospect of a stem cell transplant. A treatment she is not looking forward to, as outcomes vary greatly and carry a good deal of uncertainty. Kes recently had to give up her work as a school chaplain, due to MDS, despite trying very hard to still work part-time. This has been devastating for her. Kes attended with her partner and carer Maggie Buckley. They met with their MP Matthew Pennycock.
Leanne Tilbrook, a very young MDS patients (typical age at diagnosis is 71yrs old), needs a transplant soon. She attended with her father Steve Tilbrook – who has been supporting MDS UK for a long time.
Neil Harrap very sadly lost his wife Julie to MDS two years ago, following complications of her stem cell transplant. He has now vowed to help raise awareness of the disease with MDS UK.
MDS UK members and their MP’s were briefed on the number of people diagnosed with rare and less common cancers in their area.
Jane Lyons, CEO of Cancer52, said, “It was fantastic to see so many people affected by rare and less common cancers at the reception raising awareness of these diseases with their MPs. For many the speed of diagnosis is critical as rare and less common cancers are more likely than the common cancers to be diagnosed late, often in A&E, and this has an impact on one year survival rates."
Rodney Taylor said, “It was a pleasure to join Cancer52 at their reception and discuss such an important issue. We need to be doing far better at diagnosing, referring and treating cancers earlier, particularly rare and less common cancers. Access to innovative treatments need to be much improved too.”
Dr Tania Mathias MP said “A privilege to meet patient-expert and constituent Prof Taylor: excellent action points concerning rare cancers.”
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer is the voice of the cancer community in Parliament, raising cancer at every opportunity, including on the Floor of the House and in meetings with Ministers and others.
The Cancer Strategy (Achieving world-class cancer outcomes: a strategy for England 2015-2020) was published in July 2015