Childhood Cancer Awareness Month (September 2023) provided an important opportunity to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of cancers affecting children and young people. Greater awareness of symptoms, as well as faster referral of suspected childhood cancers are crucial to ensure that more children and young people can be diagnosed quicker.
I know that the NHS has committed to meeting the Faster Diagnosis Standard so that by 2024, 75 per cent of patients who are urgently referred by their GP for suspected cancer either have a diagnosis or have cancer ruled out within 28 days. The NHS is also prioritising the goal of meeting the early diagnosis ambition, so that 75 per cent of cancers are diagnosed at stage 1 or 2 by 2028.
Delivering more research is vital to better understanding the causes of cancer and increasing survival rates. I understand that over the past five years, the National Institute for Health and Care Research has invested almost £14 million in 38 research projects into childhood cancers.
Understanding the experience of children and young people with cancer is also important for being able to improve their cancer treatment and care. It is positive that the Under-16 Cancer Patient Experience Survey has been established to build a greater understanding of the experience of young people with cancer and their families. The 2022 survey has closed and its findings will be published in due course.
I strongly encourage the families of those affected to participate in the next Survey when it is launched.