Dr Nick Tupper - Success in our cancer battle

A lung cancer sufferer undergoes radiotherapy treatment.
A lung cancer sufferer undergoes radiotherapy treatment.

Cancer. It’s a scary word that strikes fear into people. It touches all our lives in some way or other and most of us will know someone who has or has had the disease.

Well, I’ve got some good news about cancer care in Doncaster. We’ve passed a major milestone: more Doncaster people are now having potentially curable treatment for cancer than are having end of life care.

Currently 2,400 people are having treatment and 2,350 are receiving end of life care – a difference of 50. Think about that for a moment. We have reached a tipping point in how we detect and diagnose cancer locally and the balance is swinging towards giving local people the chance to have the treatment they need to fight the disease.

In human terms that’s 50 people and families given hope and optimism when just a handful of years ago they could have faced a much more daunting prospect. On average, 78 fewer people are now dying from cancer each year in Doncaster than 10 years ago.

So how has the situation changed? Well we’re all getting better at spotting the signs and symptoms of cancer – awareness campaigns are helping – and we’re diagnosing faster and getting people into treatment quicker. Local GPs have referred 10 per cent more people to hospital for a diagnosis than last year and 10 per cent more people are having curative treatment than this time last year. Patients referred to a cancer consultant have to be seen within two weeks of referral and in Doncaster we meet that target. Most people attend their appointment but some, sadly, don’t because they think they have something more important to do instead. My message is ‘what can be more important than your health?’

NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is led by GPs who are improving the treatment ‘pathways’ patients follow after being diagnosed with cancer. Scawthorpe GP Dr Marco Pieri is local ‘lead’ for cancer care, responsible for working with others to identify problems and develop solutions. Cancer is a key focus of the CCG and all GP practices in the borough.

By focussing on the indicators of better cancer care rather than the services as a whole we’re helping improve outcomes for Doncaster patients – and more will follow.

Locally, the prevalence of lung cancer in women is a concern and Doncaster men tend to have more cases of lung, bowel and prostate cancer than the national average. Stopping smoking (Doncaster has 15,500 more smokers than an average town our size), taking exercise, drinking sensibly and eating well to maintain a healthy weight are crucial to closing the gap between the health of Doncaster and the rest of the country.

I’m really excited that Doncaster is standing up to cancer and proving that early diagnosis and fast access to treatment is enabling more people to win their battle and resume a normal life.