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Especially For Young Women

 
   

 

Breast Cancer Trumps All

 Other Cancers For Funding

Anthony Browne

The Guardian

People suffering from a range of cancers are getting second-class treatment because the breast cancer lobby has swallowed up the vast majority of available expertise and funding.

Cancer experts have warned that the breast cancer lobby is now so powerful it is distorting research spending, treatment and facilities at the expense of those suffering from other cancers.

Lung cancer kills almost three times as many people each year as breast cancer, which also kills fewer people than colon cancer. However, there are more than 25 charities dedicated to breast cancer, compared with five for prostate, three for colon and just one for lung cancer.

The breast cancer charities have succeeded in raising millions of pounds and attracting patronage from Ministers, MPs and royalty, as well as from celebrities such as pop star Geri Halliwell.

'Breast cancer research has moved forward much faster than the others because of the breast cancer lobby, which is very powerful,' said Ian Gibson MP, chairman of the House of Commons' all-party group on cancer.

'The treatment has been skewed by the lobbying, there is no doubt about that. Breast cancer sufferers get better treatment in terms of bed spaces, facilities and doctors and nurses.'

Britain has 3,000 specialist breast cancer nurses, but just 200 for lung cancer, 300 for bowel cancer and only one for prostate cancer. Waiting times between referral and diagnosis are just two weeks for breast cancer - but three months for prostate cancer.

The first drug authorised by the new National Institute of Clinical Excellence was the breast cancer drug taxane. There are screening programmes for both breast cancer and cervical cancer, but not for the others.

In 1996, the Government spent 5 million on breast cancer research and just 76,000 on prostate cancer.

In 1996, the Government spent 5 million on breast cancer research and just 76,000 on prostate cancer. Likewise, last year, the Imperial Cancer Research Fund spent 8m on breast cancer research, compared with 5.5m for colon cancer, even though it kills more people.

'Other cancers lost out in terms of research money,' said Gibson. 'Nearly all the money from research comes from charities, and they were raising money for breast cancer. That's why lung cancer research got stuck, because no money was raised for it.'

Professor Jonathan Waxman of the Prostate Cancer Charity said the Government had been easily swayed by the breast cancer lobby. 'The Government has responded to the media attention and the huge emotional pull of breast cancer,' he said.

A spokesman for the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, Britain's only lung cancer charity, complained: 'It's been skewed totally. Breast cancer is so well addressed, [while lung cancer] doesn't attract the level of funding you'd expect for the number one cancer killer.'

Breast cancer has become far more treatable in recent years. The chances of surviving for five years after diagnosis rose from 54 per cent in 1975 to 74 per cent in 1995. In contrast, lung cancer has seen no improvement in survival rates, with 80 per cent of victims dying within a year.

'In comparison to breast cancer, we are the poor relative - the money going into lung cancer is a small fraction of that going into breast cancer,' said Professor John Field, director of research at the Roy Castle International Centre for Lung Cancer Research.

Colon cancer - the second biggest cancer killer - is curable in 90 per cent of cases if caught early, but because it is largely ignored and there is no screening programme, only 39 per cent of sufferers survive more than five years.

Sarah Cruickshank of Colon Cancer Concern said it has been struggling to get attention and raise funds. 'People are too embarrassed to talk about bottoms and rectums. But breasts are visible, attractive, and you can dress up models and market it,' she said. In a desperate bid for attention, the charity put out a poster of a bottom, but made it look like a cleavage.

Leslie Walker, head of information at the Cancer Research Campaign, said: 'The explosion of research into breast cancer comes down to one thing - breast screening. If you screen, you detect women with breast cancer and you get all the expertise and facilities built up around that.'

In contrast, there are very limited facilities for other cancers. And because they are detected so late there is little chance of saving people and few survivors to treat.

'The problem we have is that we can fund only 15 projects. Do we just go with the best ones, or do we positively discriminate against breast cancer research?' said Walker.

"It came as public health minister Yvette Cooper admitted that inequality exists between men's and women's health. It has previously been estimated that eight times as much is spent on women's health as men's." BBC News

There is eight times as much money spent on specific female health issues as on male ones. Women are screened for breast cancer and cervical cancer, and will soon be screened for ovarian cancer. But there is no screening programme for prostate cancer

Also see, ...

Breast Cancer, Breast Cancer, Breast Cancer

 



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