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Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer

Scottish National Party Conference 2017 Blog

Scottish National Party Conference 2017 Blog
by Greg Judge
As a UK-wide charity, Brain Tumour Research funds scientific studies for the ultimate benefit of every brain tumour patient and families impacted by this devastating disease, everywhere.

For Scotland, brain tumour survival rates have remained largely unchanged for over a decade. This is the reality being faced by patients the world over and makes the need for greater funding into brain tumour research ever-more urgent for researchers, families and funders.

Nick Perkins, Campaigns Officer and Greg Judge, Public Affairs Officer visited Glasgow this week for the Scottish National Party’s conference. As a nation with devolved powers, the SNP are the Government in Scotland, responsible for health policy amongst other issues.

Here’s a round-up of what we discovered and who we met to help identify the policies and possibilities available in helping to fund the fight against brain tumours.

Prevention is better than cure

That’s how the proverb goes and the discussions on health in Glasgow this week took this to heart. The conference coincided with Obesity and Cancer Awareness Week so raising awareness of the fact that obesity is the biggest preventable cause of many cancers after smoking was a key take-home-message.

Health inequalities and how people’s different lifestyles can impact their health is a big issue in Scotland. The Scottish Government’s diet and obesity strategy was the topic of one fringe led by Cancer Research UK.

The British Heart Foundation explored how both long and short-term exposure to air pollution can make existing heart conditions worse, and possibly lead to other diseases including cancer. For many cancers, changing habits and improving our environment can have a real, noticeable impact on the number of cases diagnosed.

One of the key reasons we need to know more about brain tumours and what makes different types tick is because we don’t have these answers yet. Only researchers in Centres of Excellence such as ours can make these discoveries.

We are starting to understand the genomics of different brain tumours, sequencing and analysing their unique genetic material, researchers access to tissue samples and patient data are critical to these tasks. These findings could lead to answers into what causes a brain tumour to develop in teenagers and later on in life.

Our data also shows a slight increase in the incidence of brain tumours in urban areas such as London, compared to other areas of the UK. Understanding if there are any environmental exposures that could impact brain tumour development also remains an area of investigation. Before we can start to think of any preventable causes, if any do exist, the research into brain tumours must first take place and be funded.

Funding the fight

The Charities Aid Foundation launched their first report into charitable giving in Scotland at conference and they found that Scottish donors are some of the most generous in the UK, with two thirds of people having donated money to charity in the last year. Medical research remains one of the top causes and it is only through people’s support from all of the UK that our researchers can continue their important work.

Funding brain tumour research should never be the sole responsibility of individual members of the public however. Working together to find a cure involves a partnership between charities, our supporters and all Governments.

Nick and Greg had the opportunity to meet with Health Ministers from the Scottish Government and explain more about the funding challenge that our researchers face and which impacts patients and families. The SNP Government launched an ambitious cancer strategy last year on Beating Cancer: Ambition and Action.

Two of the key targets are for ‘more people surviving cancer for 1, 5, 10 years’ and a ‘reduction in the growth in the number of diagnosed with cancer’. With the UK five-year brain tumour survival rate remaining unchanged below 20% and incidence continuing to increase, our community and Health leaders in all nations have their work cut out to make this a reality for all cancer patients.

Brain Tumour Research will continue to work with partners and allies in all parties and Governments. Raising awareness of this devastating disease is as much needed amongst politicians as it is with the general public. Most people are still unaware that brain tumours kill more children than leukaemia.

Having also met with MSPs and SNP MPs such as Dr Philippa Whitford MP, a practising breast cancer surgeon, and Drew Hendry MP who has been touched by the story of a brain tumour patient, we are ready to take our campaign for a cure to the next level!

Please continue to check back here for more updates and if you have any questions or would like to get involved in our campaigning, please do not hesitate to contact us at campaigning@braintumourresearch.org.
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