Delyth Morgan: Make breast cancer thing of past

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Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK and, this year, more than 4600 women in Scotland will be told that they have the disease, and 1000 women will lose their lives to the disease.

Breast cancer touches the lives of millions of us, and for every man or woman who develops the disease, there are loved ones who also feel the fear and uncertainty that comes with it. Survival rates for breast cancer have increased dramatically – more than four out of five women who develop breast cancer will now live beyond five years. However more and more women are developing the disease – there are nearly 700,000 people living with or after a breast cancer diagnosis in the UK.

That’s why in June of this year we launched Breast Cancer Now with the bold ambition to stop women dying from breast cancer by 2050. We are the newest and largest breast cancer charity working in Scotland and we currently invest £1.6 million in research, funding nine research projects across the country.

We’ve already identified effective ways to prevent breast cancer, such as surgery, drugs and changes to lifestyle. Now it’s about tailoring that knowledge further and finding the right way to help each individual woman manage her personal risk.

We know that finding breast cancer early gives women the best chance of survival, and we need to encourage everyone to be breast aware, ensure that the screening programme works as effectively as possible and find new ways to detect the disease earlier.

The way breast cancer is treated has been revolutionised through the discovery of targeted drugs with fewer side effects and improved surgery and radiotherapy options. The next step is to find treatments that work for every type of breast cancer – particularly those hardest to treat, where options are limited.

Most importantly, Breast Cancer Now refuses to ignore secondary breast cancer. Now is the time to find treatments that give women back the time secondary breast cancer steals.

The UK has one of the lowest breast cancer survival rates in Western Europe. Existing treatments can control the disease for a time, but it will eventually stop responding and ultimately lead to death.

Scientists in Edinburgh are currently carrying out research to develop new treatments, as well as to improve existing ones, and working out which treatments are most suitable for which patients.

We want to create a world where we can control breast cancer. A world where women will live with the disease but never die from it. If we act now then we believe that, by 2050, this can be a reality. But we can only realise this with the support of people right across Scotland.

Baroness Delyth Morgan is chief executive of Breast Cancer Now