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Progress In Preventing Breast Cancer Deaths Is Set To Reverse In The Next Four Years

A charity has called on the government to address the postcode lottery in NHS breast cancer services

Deaths from breast cancer are set to rise again by 2022 for the first time after three decades of progress. New research by Breast Cancer Now has revealed that the rise in obesity levels and the UK’s ageing populations mean the annual number of deaths will increase within four years if current trends continue.

Currently, approximately 11,400 patients die every year from breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body and become incurable, compared to 15,625 in 1989. However, this number is set to rise by 2022, as 89,000 women are predicted to develop preventable cases of cancer by 2028.

While the numbers are bleak, Breast Cancer Now remains hopeful that we can prevent this terrifying rise if the government chooses to act immediately. ‘We now have a once in a generation opportunity to invest to stop thousands more women dying from breast cancer and we urge the Government to act now,’ said chief executive of Breast Cancer Now, Baroness Delyth Morgan, ‘This projected rise in breast cancer deaths is deeply worrying, but it is not too late to stop it.’

Stating that both women’s lifestyles and health services need to improve, the charity also called on the government to improve breast cancer screening services. The current disparity in diagnoses between the best and worst performing areas means that more than 1,000 lives that could be saved, aren’t.

This comes after officials admitting failings in the national breast cancer screening programme since 2009, whereby 450,000 women weren’t invited for imperative scans and it was estimated 75 died as a result.

While advances in research and NHS investment had previously decreased the number of women dying from breast cancer, these failings and the troubling trends shown by the new research are a huge cause of concern for charities in the future.

‘It’s so encouraging that more women are surviving breast cancer than ever before, thanks to decades of research progress and NHS investment,’ Morgan continued, ‘but this progress is not sustainable without more investment to tackle the projected increase in the number of women losing their lives.’

Calling on the government to address the postcode lottery in NHS breast cancer services, invest in local services to improve screening uptakes and fund interventions to prevent ‘avoidable’ deaths, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care has responded:

‘Cancer is a key priority for this Government and survival rates are at a record high, with five-year breast cancer survival rates in the UK now above the average for OECD countries. But we know there is more to do, and NHS England is investing over £600m to transform cancer services in England.

But how will this money be spent? And will the money be equally distributed to local councils across the country in relation to peoples needs? The government has a history of underfunding certain local councils while others revel in big budgets- you only have to look back two years to see that inner and northern cities faced the largest proportion of budget cuts during the 2015/16 focus on austerity, despite being the most needy.

We can only wait for a more in depth report on the new NHS investment to know just how much the postcode lottery will be tackled, and hope it's in time to prevent the thousands of avoidable deaths that are predicted.

_Find out more about Breast Cancer Now's campaign here._