PM tells of goddaughter’s death as she outlines new cancer strategy

Theresa May told how her goddaughter died from cancer as she outlined plans to spare thousands of others the “pain of losing a loved one before their time”.

The Prime Minister said a new cancer strategy will be a key part of the NHS’s long-term plan, with early detection vital to boosting survival rates.

Mrs May urged activists to defend the Tory record on the health service, adding she can only do her job thanks to the “wonderful staff” who help manage her diabetes.

Speaking at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, Mrs May said: “Cancer can strike any of us at any time.

“A few years ago, my goddaughter was diagnosed with cancer. She underwent treatment and it seemed to be working. But then the cancer came back.

“Last summer, she sent me a text to tell me that she was hoping to see another Christmas. But she didn’t make it.

“Half of us will be diagnosed with cancer. All of us know someone who has been.

“Survival rates are increasing, but we are lagging behind other countries.

“So today I can announce a new cancer strategy, funded through our 70th birthday investment, will form a central part of our long-term plan for the NHS.”

On the importance of early diagnosis, Mrs May added: “Five-year survival rates for bowel cancer are over 90% if caught early, but less than 10% if diagnosed late.

“Through our cancer strategy, we will increase the early detection rate from one-in-two today, to-three-in-four by 2028.

“We will do it by lowering the age at which we screen for bowel cancer from 60 to 50, by investing in the very latest scanners, and by building more rapid diagnostic centres – one-stop shops that help people get treatment quicker.”

Mrs May predicted that by 2028, 55,000 more people will be alive five years after their diagnosis compared with today

She said: “Every life saved means precious extra years with friends and family.

“Every life saved means a parent, a partner, a child, a godmother spared the pain of losing a loved one before their time.”

Downing Street said Mrs May’s goddaughter was the daughter of a cousin, adding that no further details would be released.

Moira Fraser, Macmillan Cancer Support’s director of policy, highlighted the need for a “costed plan” to grow and sustain numbers of doctors and nurses to ensure ambitions can be realised.

She said: “An early diagnosis can make a radical difference to someone’s survival chances, treatment options and quality of life, and ambitions set out by the Prime Minister today have real potential to improve, and even save, lives.

“But to fulfil pledges like these tomorrow, we must address fundamental challenges in cancer care today, so that the health service is equipped for a growing population of people living with cancer and all that entails.”

Emma Greenwood, Cancer Research UK’s director of policy and public affairs, welcomed the ambition, but said: “The scale of the challenge is substantial and must now be reflected in Government action.

“Significant investment in NHS staff who diagnose and treat cancer patients will be fundamental, as will continued research into new diagnostic tests.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Aaron Chown / PA Wire.