Every year, more than 135,000 people sadly die from cancer in England. Many others will be going through treatment, getting diagnoses or waiting for test results. Cancer is all-pervasive and affects all of us – whether we are the 1 in 2 people who will develop cancer in our lifetimes, or through the experiences of friends, family and loved ones.
That’s why, for Cancer Research UK, other cancer charities and those who have been affected by cancer, World Cancer Day, every 4th February, is always a big day. A day for action and a day to unite individuals and communities right across the world against cancer.
This year’s event feels particularly important as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its toll on cancer diagnosis and screening. Since the lockdown in March 2020, around 3 million fewer people have been screened via the bowel, breast or cervical cancer screening programmes in the UK than we would expect under normal circumstances. While we might not be able to shake a bucket and set up fundraising stalls right now, we’ve still got to do all we can to make a difference for cancer patients and readdress the missed diagnoses, the cancelled surgeries and the 40,000 fewer people that started their cancer treatment last year.
We all know how vital local authorities are for our nation’s public health. Many functions and services that help prevent or diagnose cancer are delivered by them on our doorsteps – from Stop Smoking Services to the promotion of the three cancer screening programmes for people without symptoms. Unfortunately, one in two of us will get cancer in our lifetime, so local action from local authorities to prevent cancer and diagnose it sooner can make a real difference to cancer rates and outcomes for cancer patients.
With this in mind, Cancer Research UK and its Local Public Affairs team are marking World Cancer Day this year by launching our new Councillor Cancer Champions network, a platform for English elected members to join together to beat cancer and reduce health inequalities in their communities.
Elected members are in a unique position to shape and influence policy decisions, to advocate on behalf of the communities they represent, and to communicate key health messages to the public. Through the Cancer Champions network, Cancer Research UK will support members to advocate for sustainable public health funding, improve local policies and promote better health and wellbeing. Their wide-ranging role can cover anything from sharing key health messages, signposting where people can access support, raising the profile of cancer at their local authority and lobbying the government.
Thanks to research, cancer survival has doubled in the UK over the last 40 years, but there’s so much we can do to diagnose cancer early and prevent it in the first place. Working with our new champions, promoting better health and wellbeing and tackling health inequalities head-on is just another example of how we can all unite to beat cancer sooner. We’re delighted that, by the time of its launch, over 35 elected members from top tier English local authorities have joined the network.
This isn’t just a one-off moment of action for World Cancer Day. It’s a chance to build and establish an important springboard for local action against cancer for years to come. We’re looking to grow the network well beyond World Cancer Day and will be happy to welcome new members so we can bring forward the day that all cancers are cured.
If you’re an elected member at a top-tier local authority in England and are interested in joining the network, or want to find out more, please email the Local Public Affairs team. Further information can also be found on our website.